John Akomfrah: Vertigo Sea - Ian Potter Museum of Art

John Akomfrah: Vertigo Sea

18 Apr 2017 — 15 Jul 2017

John Akomfrah‚Äôs spectacular three-screen film installation¬†Vertigo Sea¬†explores what Ralph Waldo Emerson calls ‚Äúthe sublime seas‚ÄĚ. A meditation on humankind‚Äôs relationship to the ocean, it depicts the majestic beauty of the natural world in stark contrast with images of human greed and brutality.

Vertigo Sea reflects upon the cyclic nature of history through a juxtaposition of three moments Рthe transatlantic slave trade, the nineteenth century whaling industry, and the present day mass movement of people from their homelands in search of asylum.

A self-described ‚Äúborn bricoleur‚ÄĚ, Akomfrah combines BBC documentary footage and archival material with newly shot imagery from the Island of Skye, the Faroe Islands and Norway. An H-bomb explodes on Bikini Atoll; a man shoots a polar bear from the deck of a ship; and newsreel images of Vietnamese boat people are juxtaposed with cinematic re-enactments of the Zong massacre of 1781, in which African slaves were thrown overboard in Caribbean waters.

John Akomfrah‚Äôs works are characterised by their investigations into memory, post-colonialism, temporality and aesthetics and often explore the experience of the African diaspora in Europe and the United States. Threaded throughout his films is the notion of ‚Äėimage taking‚Äô ‚Äď a collection and recombination of images for posterity, which positions the artist as caretaker and custodian of the future.

Born in Accra, Ghana in 1957, John Akomfrah lives and works in London. A founding member of the influential Black Audio Film Collective, he has participated in major exhibitions and film festivals around the world.