Magazine of art press and reviews from London
David Franchi – Monday, 7th March 2016.
John Akomfrah is an involving exhibition at the Lisson Gallery, London.
It was the first exhibition of John Akomfrah for the London branch of Lisson Gallery. It presented new and recent works by Akomfrah worldwide acclaimed artist and filmmaker.
For his debut at the Lisson Gallery, Akomfrah has made two new diptych video installations. The first, The Airport (2016), was shot in Greece. It focused on the terrible economic situation by referring to Theo Angelopulous, one of the country’s greatest filmmakers, as if it was made through his point of view.
The second, Auto Da Fé (2016), was shot in Barbados. It focused on the nowadays refugee crisis through the handwriting of the Caribbean writer George Lamming. It mixes current events in Europe with a nameless event from 1654, when Sephardic Jews, found shelter in the Barbados, when running away from the Inquisition in Catholic Brazil.
Also on show was Tropikos (2016), a film that transport the Tamar Valley into a sixteenth-century English port of exploration on the African continent, so to disclose the inherent and gloomy past of the river.
The style of work of John Akomfrah is visual, intense, and multi-layered. It refers to poetic but also to political issue, often merged together with contemporary and past, fictional and mythological aspects.
He defines himself: “I’m a born bricoleur. I love the way that things that are otherwise discrete and self-contained start to suggest things once they are forced into a dialogue with something else.”
Akomfrah uses different media, such as archival film footage, still photography, newsreel and new material, to investigate personal and collective memories, post-colonialism, temporality and aesthetics in works that regularly look at the African diaspora in Europe and the US.
John Akomfrah started to emerge in the early 1980s as a founding member of the influential Black Audio Film Collective alongside the artists David Lawson and Lina Gopaul. Still at today they collaborate and their film Handsworth Songs (1986), explored the 1985 riots in Birmingham and London. It won international prizes and attracted a huge audience.
Akomfrah (born 1957, Accra, Ghana) lives and works in London. He has had many solo exhibitions including Bildmuseet Umeå, Sweden (2015); Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Michigan, USA (2014); Tate Britain, London, UK (2013-14) and a series long a week of screenings at MoMA, New York, USA (2011). His participation in international group shows has included: ‘British Art Show 8’, Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds; ‘All the World’s Futures’, 56th Venice Biennale, Italy (2015); ‘History is Now: 7 Artists Take On Britain’, Hayward Gallery, London, UK (2015); ‘Africa Now: Political 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 (2012).
John Akomfrah exhibition is at the Lisson Gallery, London, from 22nd January until 12th March 2016.