Lisson Gallery

John Akomfrah

John Akomfrah is a hugely respected artist and filmmaker, whose works are characterised by their investigations into memory, post-colonialism, temporality and aesthetics and often explores the experiences of migrant diasporas globally. Akomfrah was a founding member of the influential Black Audio Film Collective, which started in London in 1982 alongside the artists David Lawson and Lina Gopaul, who he still collaborates with today. Their first film, Handsworth Songs (1986) explored the events surrounding the 1985 riots in Birmingham and London through a charged combination of archive footage, still photos and newsreel. The film won several international prizes and established a multi-layered visual style that has become a recognisable motif of Akomfrah’s practice. Other works include the three-screen installation The Unfinished Conversation (2012), a moving portrait of the cultural theorist Stuart Hall’s life and work; Peripeteia (2012), an imagined drama visualising the lives of individuals included in two 16th century portraits by Albrecht Dürer and Mnemosyne (2010) which exposes the experience of migrants in the UK, questioning the notion of Britain as a promised land by revealing the realities of economic hardship and casual racism.

In 2015, Akomfrah premiered his three-screen film installation Vertigo Sea (2015), which explores what Ralph Waldo Emerson calls ‘the sublime seas’. Fusing archival material, readings from classical sources and newly shot footage, Akomfrah’s piece focuses on the disorder and cruelty of the whaling industry and juxtaposes it with scenes of many generations of migrants making epic crossings of the ocean for a better life. In 2017, Akomfrah presented his largest film installation to date, Purple (2017), at the Barbican in London, co-commissioned by Bildmuseet Umeå, Sweden, TBA21—Academy, The Institute of Contemporary Art/ Boston, Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon and Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow. The six-channel video installation addresses climate change, human communities and the wilderness. More recently, Akomfrah debuted Precarity (2017) at Prospect 4 New Orleans, following the life of forgotten New Orleans jazz singer Charles 'Buddy' Bolden. This year, on the occasion of his participation at the first Ghana Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale, John Akomfrah is presenting Four Nocturnes (2019), a new three-channel piece that reflects on the complex intertwined relationship between humanity’s destruction of the natural world and our destruction of ourselves. 

Akomfrah (born 1957) lives and works in London. He has had numerous solo exhibitions including New Art Exchange, Nottingham, UK (2019); BALTIC, Gateshead, UK (2019); ICA Boston, MA, USA (2019); Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon, Portugal (2018); Imperial War Museum, London, UK (2018); New Museum, New York, NY, USA (2018); Bildmuseet, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden (2015, 2018); Nasher Museum at Duke University, Durham, DC, USA (2018); SFMOMA, San Francisco, CA, USA (2018); Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain (2018); Barbican, London, UK (2017); Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, UK (2017); Turner Contemporary, Margate, UK (2016); Nikolaj Kunsthal, Copenhagen, Denmark (2016); STUK Kunstcentrum, Leuven, Belgium (2016);  Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Michigan, USA (2014); Tate Britain, London, UK (2013-14) and a week long series of screenings at MoMA, New York, USA (2011). His participation in international group shows includes: Ghana Pavilion, 58th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2019); 'Strange Days: Memories of the Future', New Museum x The Store, London, UK (2018); Prospect 4, New Orleans, LA, USA (2017); 'Restless Earth', La Triennale di Milano, Milan, Italy (2017); 'Unfinished Conversations', Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NY, USA (2017); 'British Art Show 8’ (2015-17); ‘All the World’s Futures’, 56th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2015); ‘History is Now: 7 Artists Take On Britain’, Hayward Gallery, London, UK (2015); ‘Africa Now: Politcal Patterns’, SeMA, Seoul, South Korea (2014); Sharjah Biennial 11, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (2013); Liverpool Biennial, UK (2012) and Taipei Biennial, Taiwan (2012). He has also been featured in many international film festivals, including Sundance Film Festival, Utah, USA (2013 and 2011) and Toronto International Film Festival, Canada (2012). He was awarded the Artes Mundi Prize in 2017. 

Current and forthcoming projects: 

'Mimesis: African Soldier', New Art Exchange, Nottingham, UK, 27 September - 31 December 2019

'John Akomfrah: Ballasts of Memory', BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK, 6 July - 27 October 2019

'The Coming World: Ecology as the New Politics 2030-2100', Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, Russia, 28 June - 1 December 2019

Four Nocturnes

John Akomfrah
Four Nocturnes, 2019
Three channel HD colour video, 7.1 sound Installation view,'Ghana Freedom', Ghana Pavilion, 58th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy, 2019. © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy Bolton & Quinn. Photography David Levene.

Four Nocturnes

John Akomfrah
Four Nocturnes, 2019
Three channel HD colour video, 7.1 sound Installation view,'Ghana Freedom', Ghana Pavilion, 58th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy, 2019. © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy Bolton & Quinn. Photography David Levene.

Mimesis : African Soldier

John Akomfrah
Mimesis : African Soldier, 2018
Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Mimesis : African Soldier

John Akomfrah
Mimesis : African Soldier, 2018
Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Purple

John Akomfrah
Purple, 2017
6 channel HD colour video installation with 15.1 surround sound © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Purple

John Akomfrah
Purple, 2017
6 channel HD colour video installation with 15.1 surround sound © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Purple

John Akomfrah
Purple, 2017
6 channel HD colour video installation with 15.1 surround sound © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Purple

John Akomfrah
Purple, 2017
Installation view at Barbican Centre, London, UK. © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy Barbican Centre. Photography: Justin Piperger.

Purple

John Akomfrah
Purple, 2017
Installation view at Barbican Centre, London, UK. © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy Barbican Centre. Photography: Justin Piperger.

Preliminal Rites 8

John Akomfrah
Preliminal Rites 8, 2017
C-type print, mounted Triptych: 152.4 x 203.2 cm / 60 x 80 in (each panel)

​Preliminal Rites 7

John Akomfrah
​Preliminal Rites 7, 2017
C-type print, mounted Triptych: 152.4 x 203.2 cm / 60 x 80 in (each panel)

Preliminal Rites 2

John Akomfrah
Preliminal Rites 2, 2017
C-type print, mounted 114 x 152 cm / 44 7/8 x 59 3/4 in(each)

Precarity

John Akomfrah
Precarity, 2017
Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Precarity

John Akomfrah
Precarity, 2017
Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Precarity

John Akomfrah
Precarity, 2017
Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

The Airport

John Akomfrah
The Airport, 2016
Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound (installation view) 53 minutes © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

The Airport

John Akomfrah
The Airport, 2016
Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound (installation view) 53 minutes © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

The Airport

John Akomfrah
The Airport, 2016
Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound (installation view) 53 minutes © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Auto Da Fé

John Akomfrah
Auto Da Fé, 2016
Two channel HD colour video installation, 5.1 sound 40 minutes 30 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Auto Da Fé

John Akomfrah
Auto Da Fé, 2016
Two channel HD colour video installation, 5.1 sound 40 minutes 30 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Auto Da Fé

John Akomfrah
Auto Da Fé, 2016
Two channel HD colour video installation, 5.1 sound 40 minutes 30 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Tropikos

John Akomfrah
Tropikos, 2016
Single channel HD colour video, 5.1 sound (installation view) 36 minutes 41 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Tropikos

John Akomfrah
Tropikos, 2016
Single channel HD colour video, 5.1 sound (installation view) 36 minutes 41 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Tropikos

John Akomfrah
Tropikos, 2016
Single channel HD colour video, 5.1 sound (installation view) 36 minutes 41 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Untitled

John Akomfrah
Untitled, 2016
C-type print mounted on Dibond Framed: 101.6 x 152.4 cm / 40 x 60 in. © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Untitled

John Akomfrah
Untitled, 2016
C-type print mounted on Dibond Framed: 104.4 x 155.2 x 6 cm / 41 3/4 x 62 x 2 3/8 in. © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Untitled

John Akomfrah
Untitled, 2016
C-type print mounted on Dibond Framed: 104.4 x 155.2 x 6 cm / 41 3/4 x 62 x 2 3/8 in. © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Untitled

John Akomfrah
Untitled, 2016
C-type print mounted on Dibond Framed: 104.4 x 155.2 x 6 cm / 41 3/4 x 62 x 2 3/8 in. © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Vertigo Sea

John Akomfrah
Vertigo Sea, 2015
Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound 48 minutes 30 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Vertigo Sea

John Akomfrah
Vertigo Sea, 2015
Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound (installation view) 48 minutes 30 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery Photo: Stuart Whipps

Vertigo Sea

John Akomfrah
Vertigo Sea, 2015
Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound (installation view) 48 minutes 30 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery Photo: Stuart Whipps

Vertigo Sea

John Akomfrah
Vertigo Sea, 2015
Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound (installation view) 48 minutes 30 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery Photo: Stuart Whipps

Vertigo Sea

John Akomfrah
Vertigo Sea, 2015
Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound (installation view) 48 minutes 30 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery Photo: Stuart Whipps

All That is Solid

John Akomfrah
All That is Solid, 2015
John Akomfrah and Trevor Mathison Single channel HD colour video, 5.1 sound 29 minutes 52 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

All That is Solid

John Akomfrah
All That is Solid, 2015
John Akomfrah and Trevor Mathison Single channel HD colour video, 5.1 sound 29 minutes 52 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

The Silence

John Akomfrah
The Silence, 2014
Single channel HD colour video, 5.1 sound 16 minutes 4 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

The Unfinished Conversation

John Akomfrah
The Unfinished Conversation, 2012
Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound (installation view) 45 minutes 48 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

The Unfinished Conversation

John Akomfrah
The Unfinished Conversation, 2012
Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound (installation view) 45 minutes 48 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

The Unfinished Conversation

John Akomfrah
The Unfinished Conversation, 2012
Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound (installation view) 45 minutes 48 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Peripeteia

John Akomfrah
Peripeteia, 2012
Single channel HD colour video, 5.1 sound 17 minutes 28 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Peripeteia

John Akomfrah
Peripeteia, 2012
Single channel HD colour video, 5.1 sound 17 minutes 28 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Peripeteia

John Akomfrah
Peripeteia, 2012
Single channel HD colour video, 5.1 sound 17 minutes 28 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Transfigured Night

John Akomfrah
Transfigured Night, 2013
Two channel HD colour video installation, 5.1 sound (installation view) 26 minutes 31 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Transfigured Night

John Akomfrah
Transfigured Night, 2013
Two channel HD colour video installation, 5.1 sound (installation view) 26 minutes 31 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Transfigured Night

John Akomfrah
Transfigured Night, 2013
Two channel HD colour video installation, 5.1 sound (installation view) 26 minutes 31 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

The Call of Mist (Redux)

John Akomfrah
The Call of Mist (Redux), 2012
Single channel HD colour video, sound 13 minutes 16 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Psyche

John Akomfrah
Psyche, 2012
Three channel HD colour video installation, monitors, sound (installation view) 8 minutes 58 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Psyche

John Akomfrah
Psyche, 2012
Three channel HD colour video installation, monitors, sound (installation view) 8 minutes 58 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

The Last Angel of History

John Akomfrah
The Last Angel of History, 1995
Single channel colour video, sound 45 minutes 7 seconds

The Last Angel of History

John Akomfrah
The Last Angel of History, 1995
Single channel colour video, sound 45 minutes 7 seconds

The Last Angel of History

John Akomfrah
The Last Angel of History, 1995
Single channel colour video, sound 45 minutes 7 seconds

Mnemosyne

John Akomfrah
Mnemosyne, 2010
Single channel HD colour video, 5.1 sound (installation view) 45 minutes 6 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Handsworth Songs

John Akomfrah
Handsworth Songs, 1986
Single channel 16mm colour film transferred to video, sound 58 minutes 33 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Handsworth Songs

John Akomfrah
Handsworth Songs, 1986
Single channel 16mm colour film transferred to video, sound 58 minutes 33 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Handsworth Songs

John Akomfrah
Handsworth Songs, 1986
Single channel 16mm colour film transferred to video, sound 58 minutes 33 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Expeditions 1 - Signs of Empire

John Akomfrah
Expeditions 1 - Signs of Empire, 1983
Single channel 35mm colour Ektachrome transferred to video, sound Installation view of 'John Akomfrah: Signs of Empire', New Museum, New York, USA, 2018 © Smoking Dogs Films, New Museum; Photography EPW Studio.

Expeditions 2 - Images of Nationality

John Akomfrah
Expeditions 2 - Images of Nationality, 1984
Single channel 35mm colour Ektachrome transferred to video, sound

Memory Room 451

John Akomfrah
Memory Room 451, 1997
Single channel colour video, sound 22 minutes 13 seconds

Exhibitions

  1. John Akomfrah

    John Akomfrah

    24 June – 12 August 2016

  2. John Akomfrah

    John Akomfrah

    22 January – 12 March 2016

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