John Akomfrah is a hugely respected artist and filmmaker, whose works are characterised by their investigations into memory, postcolonialism, 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), that 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. Akomfrah presented his largest film installation to date, Purple, in 2017 at the Barbican in London, co-commissioned by Bildmuseet Umeå, Sweden, TBA21— Academy, The Institute of Contemporary Art/ Boston and Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon. The six-channel video installation addresses climate change, human communities and the wilderness. More recently, Akomfrah debuted Precarity at Prospect 4 New Orleans. Through archival imagery and newly-shot footage, Precarity follows the life of forgotten New Orleans jazz singer Buddy Bolden

John Akomfrah
Accra, 1957

Current Exhibitions

26 May — 02 Sep
ICA Watershed presents the U.S. premiere of “Purple“ an immersive six-channel video installation by acclaimed artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah, announced Jill Medvedow, the ICA’s Ellen Matilda Poss Director. “What...

Past Exhibitions

John Akomfrah: Purple

Museu Coleção Berardo 08/11/2018 — 10/03/2019

Strange Days: Memories of the Future

180 The Strand
02/10/2018 — 09/12/2018

John Isaacs: Archipelago

10/04/2018 — 29/06/2018

Active Forms

Sharjah Art Foundation
16/03/2018 — 16/06/2018

John Akomfrah: Purple

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza
20/02/2018 — 25/03/2018

Solo Shows

‘Sublime Seas: John Akomfrah and J.M.W. Turner’, SFMOMA, San Francisco, CA, USA
‘John Akomfrah: Purple’, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain
‘The Stuart Hall Project’ (screening), Galerie Leonard and Bina Ellen, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada

‘Lateral Time: John Akomfrah and Smoking Dogs Films’, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA
‘The Cinema of John Akomfrah: Spectres of Diaspora’, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, São Paulo, Brazil; Brasilia, Brazil; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
‘Vertigo Sea | John Akomfrah’, Talbot Rice Gallery, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
‘Purple’, The Curve, Barbican Centre, London, UK
‘John Akomfrah: Thresholds to Another Time’, Deutsche Bank lounge, Frieze Art Fair, London, UK
‘Rose Video 11: John Akomfrah’, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, USA
‘Vertigo Sea’, The Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
‘Vertigo Sea’, the Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

‘Vertigo Sea’, Turner Contemporary, Margate, UK
‘Troubled Waters’, University of New South Wales School of Art and Design, University of New South Wales, Paddington, Australia
Lisson Gallery, New York, NY, USA
‘ Sea’, Centre of Contemporary Art, Christchurch, New Zealand
‘Vertigo Sea’, The Exchange, Penzance, UK
‘Auto Da Fé’, STUK Kunstcentrum, Leuven, Belgium
‘Vertigo Sea’, Nikolaj Kunsthal, Copenhagen, Denmark
‘John Akomfrah: Peripeteia’, The Gallery, Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK
‘Vertigo Sea’, Arnolfini, Bristol, UK Lisson Gallery, London, UK

Group Shows

‘The Rebellion of Moving Image’, Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei, Taiwan True / False Film Fest, Columbia, MO, USA
‘Actions. The image of the world can be different’, Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, UK ‘On Riots and Resistance’, Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, Berlin, Stuttgart, Germany
‘Domestic Arenas’, Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic

‘Prospect 4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp’, Prospect, New Orleans, LA, USA ‘Yellow Creature – Aspekte der Transformation’, Kunstmuseum Luzern, Luzern, Switzerland
‘Afro-Tech and the Future of Re-Invention’, Hartware MedienKunstVerein, Dortmund, Germany
‘The Stuart Hall Project’ (screening), HOME, Manchester, UK
‘Sanctuary’, FOR-SITE, Fort Mason, CA, USA
‘Turbulent Landings: The NGC 2017 Canadian Biennial’, Art Gallery of Alberta, Alberta, Canada
‘The Art of Dissonance’, Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea
‘Eric Baudelaire, Après’, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
‘The Unfinished Conversation: Encoding/Decoding’, Stamps Gallery, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
‘Arsenal cinema: cours, cours, camarade, le vieux monde est derrière toi – the cinema of Med Hondo’ (screening), Arsenal Institut für Film und Videokunst e.V., Berlin, Germany
‘The Absent Museum’ (screening), WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels, Belgium
‘Summer Film Series: Black Audio Film Collective at PAMM’ (screening), Perez Art Museum Miami, Miami, FL, USA
‘Picture Industry’, Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College, Annandale-on- Hudson, NY, USA
‘Thinking Back’, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, Middlesbrough, UK Unlimited and Film sectors, Art Basel, Basel, Switzerland
Garage Museum of Contemporary Art (screening), Moscow, Russia
‘Moving Pictures’ (screening), Ego Cluk, Kherson, Ukraine
‘The Conundrum of Imagination: On the Paradigm of Exploration and Discovery’, Wiener Festwochen 2017, Leopold Museum, Vienna, Austria
Oberhausen Short Film Festival (screening), Oberhausen, Germany ‘Art + Film’ (screening), Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne, Australia ‘Restless Earth’, Triennale, Milan, Italy
Rehang, The Tanks, Tate Modern, London, UK
‘Offshore: Artists Explore The Sea’, Ferens Art Gallery, Hull, UK
‘THE WHITE HUNTER: African Memories and Representations’. FM Centre for Contemporary Art, Milan, Italy
‘Thought is made in the mouth’, Fundação Eugenio de Almeida, Évora, Portugal ‘Art inSight: Unfinished Conversations: New Work from the Collection’, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA
‘The Land is Mine / This Land is Me’ (screening), Australian Cinémathèque, Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia
Perth International Arts Festival, John Curtin Gallery, Curtin University, Perth, Australia
‘Public View’, Bluecoat, Liverpool, UK
‘The Place Is Here’, Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, UK;
South London Gallery, London, UK
‘Black Rebels’ (screening), International Film Festival Rotterdam, Rotterdam, Netherlands
‘The Workshop Years: Black British Film and Video After 1981’, Hammer Museum, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, LA, USA

Contacts & Details

City of birth: Accra Country of birth: Ghana Date of birth: 1957 Lives in: London, UK