Evening Standard reviews John Akomfrah & An Infinity of Traces
12 April 2021
Enveloping, enthralling, sublime: Four Nocturnes (2019), the centrepiece of 'The Unintended Beauty of Disaster', Lisson Gallery’s new show by the British artist John Akomfrah, is part of a trilogy of video installations that stands among the great bodies of art produced this century. Like Vertigo Sea (2015) and Purple (2017), it collages — or “choreographs”, as Akomfrah puts it — original and archival footage across three screens. It weaves together the big themes of our times — climate change, migration — with legacies of colonialism and slavery.
As well as photo and text works, Akomfrah shows Triptych (2020), a new film made amid the Black Lives Matter protests. It’s a study in portraiture: a series of Black faces meet our gaze across the three screens. It follows the three-part structure of its soundtrack, the civil rights-themed jazz classic Triptych: Prayer, Protest, Peace, made by singer Abbey Lincoln and drummer Max Roach in 1960.
At the other Lisson space up the road is 'Infinity of Traces' (★★★★), an Ekow Eshun-curated show by Black artists, emergent and established, seen as a “conversation” with Akomfrah, weaving around his themes in diverse artistic languages. Among many superb moments are Jade Montserrat’s delicate yet affecting combinations of poetry and image in watercolour, and video works with distinctive visions of Black bodies and social space, from Rhea Storr’s film on Bahamian Junkanoo carnival culture, to Ayo Akingbade’s short film about cities and social housing (“let’s get rid of the ghetto”, she repeats) and Evan Ifekoya’s 2014 video Disco Breakdown, from series of works about blackness, queerness and nightlife. Their repeated refrain — “I want to be dancing at the discotheque/Up so close I can feel you sweat” — has gained a whole new meaning.
Read the full review by Ben Luke in the Evening Standard here.
Book to visit the exhibition here.