Lisson Gallery

John Akomfrah 'Purple' opens at ICA Boston

24 May 2019

The US premiere of John Akomfrah's immersive six-channel video installation Purple is now on view at The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA).

“What astounds me about the art of John Akomfrah is that the beauty, power, and grace of his work conveys a sense of the sublime and the possible, despite its depiction of the powerful impacts of climate change, rising sea levels, and the increase of severe weather. Purple embodies the belief that inward reflection must be paired with active engagement,” said Jill Medvedow, the ICA’s Ellen Matilda Poss Director. “The ICA is honored to present this important and timely work at the Watershed.”

The artist’s most ambitious project to date, Purple combines found and original film footage to address how human activities has impacted the earth and its effects on communities, biodiversity, and the wilderness. Sited in the Watershed’s industrial building, the themes of Purple resonate deeply with the Watershed’s harbor location and its proximity to the ocean and maritime industries of the Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina.

Symphonic in scale and divided into six interwoven movements, Akomfrah has combined hundreds of hours of archival footage with newly shot film and a spellbinding sound score to produce the video installation. The film features various disappearing ecological landscapes: from the hinterlands of Alaska and the desolate environments of Greenland, to the Tahitian Peninsula and the volcanic Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific. Purple conveys the complex and fragile interrelation of human and non-human life with a sense of poetic gravity that registers the vulnerability of living in precarious environments.

Purple has been commissioned by the Barbican, London and 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 installation will be on view until 2 September, 2019.

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Image: John Akomfrah, Purple, 2017. Six-channel HD color video installation with 15.1 surround sound; 62 minutes © Smoking Dogs Films.
John Akomfrah 'Purple' opens at ICA Boston
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