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. In 2019, on the occasion of his participation at the first Ghana Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale, John Akomfrah presented Four Nocturnes (2019), a 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 Midlands Art Centre, Birmingham, UK (2022); E-WERK, Freiburg, Germany (2022); Remai Modern, Saskatoon, Canada (2022); Towner Eastbourne, Eastbourne, UK (2021); Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, Spain (2021); Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, Sevilla, Spain (2020); Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA, USA (2020); Secession, Vienna, Austria (2020); BALTIC, Gateshead, UK (2019); ICA Boston, MA, USA (2019); Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon, Portugal (2018); New Museum, New York, NY, USA (2018); Bildmuseet, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden (2015, 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: 'Fault Lines', North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, USA (2022); ‘Posteriority’, Museum of Contemporary Art Busan, Busan, South Korea (2021); ‘Am I Human To You?’, Art Museum KUBE, Alesund, Norway (2021); ‘Affect Machine: Self-healing in the Post-Capitalist Era’, Taipaei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan (2021); 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. 

Five Murmurations, 2021

John Akomfrah
Five Murmurations, 2021

Three channel HD black and white video installation, 7:1 sound. 54 min 39 secs.

Four Nocturnes, 2019

John Akomfrah
Four Nocturnes, 2019

Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound. 50 minutes.

Triptych, 2020

John Akomfrah
Triptych, 2020

Three channel HD colour video, 7.1 sound. 10 mins.

We Are The Proof, 2021

John Akomfrah
We Are The Proof, 2021

Giclee Print, Text. 152.4 x 101.6 cm.

Our Skin Is The Monument, 2021

John Akomfrah
Our Skin Is The Monument, 2021

Giclee Print, Text. 152.4 x 101.6 cm.

"The Monuments of Being” Series No.Three, 2021

John Akomfrah
"The Monuments of Being” Series No.Three, 2021

Giclee Print, Gold, Text. 121.9 x 91.4 cm.

"The Monuments of Being” Series No. Nine, 2021

John Akomfrah
"The Monuments of Being” Series No. Nine, 2021

Giclee Print, Gold, Text. 12 panels, each: 37.3 x 47.5 cm.

Mimesis : African Soldier, 2018

John Akomfrah
Mimesis : African Soldier, 2018

Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound. 73 minutes.

Mimesis : African Soldier, 2018

John Akomfrah
Mimesis : African Soldier, 2018

Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound. 73 minutes.

Purple, 2017

John Akomfrah
Purple, 2017

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

Purple, 2017

John Akomfrah
Purple, 2017

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

Preliminal Rites 8, 2017

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, 2017

John Akomfrah
​Preliminal Rites 7, 2017

C-type print, mounted Triptych: 152.4 x 203.2 cm / 60 x 80 in (each panel).

Precarity, 2017

John Akomfrah
Precarity, 2017

Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound.

Precarity, 2017

John Akomfrah
Precarity, 2017

Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound.

Precarity, 2017

John Akomfrah
Precarity, 2017

Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound.

The Airport, 2016

John Akomfrah
The Airport, 2016

Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound (installation view). 53 minutes.

The Airport, 2016

John Akomfrah
The Airport, 2016

Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound (installation view). 53 minutes.

The Airport, 2016

John Akomfrah
The Airport, 2016

Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound (installation view). 53 minutes.

Auto Da Fé, 2016

John Akomfrah
Auto Da Fé, 2016

Two channel HD colour video installation, 5.1 sound. 40 minutes 30 seconds.

Auto Da Fé, 2016

John Akomfrah
Auto Da Fé, 2016

Two channel HD colour video installation, 5.1 sound. 40 minutes 30 seconds.

Auto Da Fé, 2016

John Akomfrah
Auto Da Fé, 2016

Two channel HD colour video installation, 5.1 sound. 40 minutes 30 seconds.

Tropikos, 2016

John Akomfrah
Tropikos, 2016

Single channel HD colour video, 5.1 sound (installation view). 36 minutes 41 seconds.

Tropikos, 2016

John Akomfrah
Tropikos, 2016

Single channel HD colour video, 5.1 sound (installation view). 36 minutes 41 seconds.

Tropikos, 2016

John Akomfrah
Tropikos, 2016

Single channel HD colour video, 5.1 sound (installation view). 36 minutes 41 seconds.

Untitled, 2016

John Akomfrah
Untitled, 2016

C-type print mounted on Dibond Framed: 101.6 x 152.4 cm / 40 x 60 in. 

Untitled, 2016

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. 

Untitled, 2016

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. 

Untitled, 2016

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. 

Vertigo Sea, 2015

John Akomfrah
Vertigo Sea, 2015

Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound 48 minutes 30 seconds

Vertigo Sea, 2015

John Akomfrah
Vertigo Sea, 2015

Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound (installation view) 48 minutes 30 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Arnolfini, Bristol. Photo: Stuart Whipps

Vertigo Sea, 2015

John Akomfrah
Vertigo Sea, 2015

Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound (installation view) 48 minutes 30 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Arnolfini, Bristol. Photo: Stuart Whipps

Vertigo Sea, 2015

John Akomfrah
Vertigo Sea, 2015

Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound (installation view) 48 minutes 30 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Arnolfini, Bristol. Photo: Stuart Whipps

Vertigo Sea, 2015

John Akomfrah
Vertigo Sea, 2015

Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound (installation view) 48 minutes 30 seconds © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Arnolfini, Bristol. Photo: Stuart Whipps

All That is Solid, 2015

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, 2015

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, 2014

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, 2012

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, 2012

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, 2012

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, 2012

John Akomfrah
Peripeteia, 2012

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

Peripeteia, 2012

John Akomfrah
Peripeteia, 2012

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

Peripeteia, 2012

John Akomfrah
Peripeteia, 2012

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

Transfigured Night, 2013

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, 2013

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, 2013

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), 2012

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, 2012

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, 2012

John Akomfrah
Psyche, 2012

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

Mnemosyne, 2010

John Akomfrah
Mnemosyne, 2010

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

Memory Room 451, 1997

John Akomfrah
Memory Room 451, 1997

Single channel colour video, sound. 22 minutes 13 seconds

The Last Angel of History, 1995

John Akomfrah
The Last Angel of History, 1995

Single channel colour video, sound 45 minutes 7 seconds

The Last Angel of History, 1995

John Akomfrah
The Last Angel of History, 1995

Single channel colour video, sound 45 minutes 7 seconds

The Last Angel of History, 1995

John Akomfrah
The Last Angel of History, 1995

Single channel colour video, sound 45 minutes 7 seconds

Handsworth Songs, 1986

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, 1986

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, 1986

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 2 - Images of Nationality, 1984

John Akomfrah
Expeditions 2 - Images of Nationality, 1984

Single channel 35mm colour Ektachrome transferred to video, sound

Expeditions 1 - Signs of Empire, 1983

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.

Museum Exhibitions

Exhibitions

  1. John Akomfrah: Five Murmurations

    John Akomfrah: Five Murmurations

    9 September – 16 October 2021

  2. John Akomfrah: The Unintended Beauty of Disaster

    John Akomfrah: The Unintended Beauty of Di...

    13 April – 10 July 2021

  3. Horizon

    Horizon

    6 October – 31 October 2020

  4. John Akomfrah

    John Akomfrah

    24 June – 12 August 2016

  5. John Akomfrah

    John Akomfrah

    22 January – 12 March 2016

Publications

  1. John Akomfrah

    John Akomfrah

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