The filmmaker and artist John Akomfrah, recognized for his searing video installations exploring points reminiscent of local weather change and post-colonialism, will symbolize the UK on the sixtieth Venice Biennale subsequent 12 months (20 April-24 November 2024). Skinder Hundal, the worldwide director of arts on the British Council and commissioner of the British Pavilion, says in a press release: “The standard and contextual depth of his artistry by no means fails to encourage deep reflection and awe. For the British Council to have such a major British-Ghanaian artist in Venice is an exhilarating second.”
Akomfrah says in a press release: “I’m grateful to be given a second to discover the advanced historical past and significance of this establishment [the British Pavilion] and the nation it represents, in addition to its architectural house in Venice, with all of the tales it has informed and can proceed to.” Final 12 months, he spoke to The Artwork Newspaper on our A Brush With podcast about his influences—together with writers, musicians, filmmakers and different artists—and the cultural experiences which have formed his life and work.
Akomfrah was born in Accra, Ghana, in 1957 however has been primarily based in London since he was a toddler. He got here to prominence within the early Nineteen Eighties as a part of the Black Audio Movie Collective (BAFC), a gaggle of seven artists based in 1982. From his early years with the BAFC to his latest works as a solo artist, he has explored charged social points—together with racial injustice, colonialist legacies, diasporic identities, migration and excessive climate occasions—by way of a particular method to reminiscence and historical past. He was knighted within the King’s New 12 months UK Honours Record for 2023.
Akomfrah has participated in two earlier Venice Biennales. His Vertigo Sea, the primary a part of a trilogy centered on the destruction of the planet, was a speaking level on the 2015 biennale organised by the late Nigerian curator Okwui Enwezor (All of the World’s Futures). The three-screen movie set up fused pictures of marine life from the BBC’s Pure Historical past Unit with archive footage of whale looking and the slave commerce together with new materials, to mirror on varied elements of humanity’s relationship with the ocean.
The second a part of the epic venture Purple (2017), proven within the Curve gallery at London’s Barbican in 2018, is a six-channel video set up that offers the artist’s personal nuanced, penetrating tackle the insidious risk of local weather change. In 2019, he confirmed the third work within the trilogy, 4 Nocturnes, on the inaugural Ghana Pavilion in Venice which centered on humanity’s destruction of the pure world through Africa’s declining elephant populations.
In 2017, Akomfrah gained the biennial Artes Mundi prize along with his 40-minute, two-screen video, Auto Da Fé (2016), which muses on the theme of mass migration over a 400-year interval. “I needed to deal with the truth that many individuals have to go away as a result of one thing horrible is occurring, it’s not nearly leaving for a greater life, many individuals really feel they’ve to go away to have a life in any respect,” Akomfrah stated.
In an interview in 2018, we requested Akomfrah if he felt stress to maintain elevating the bar with every venture. “I’ve questioned that. I truthfully don’t suppose so, however it’s clear there’s a dialogue between the commissions and what I’m requested to do,” he stated.
The UK consultant on the 2022 Venice Biennale, Sonia Boyce, gained the Golden Lion prize for Greatest Nationwide Participation on the 59th Worldwide Artwork Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.