John Akomfrah’s Purple at Bildmuseet at Umeå University Through September 16

Above: John Akomfrah, Purple. Installation view Bildmuseet, 2018. Photo: Mikael Lundgren.

Purple is an immersive six-channel video installation addressing man’s relationship to nature and to the planet, created by the British artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah. At a time when greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are at historically high levels and glaciers are melting, Purple poses the question of human responsibility.

In this epic film work, John Akomfrah combines archival material with newly staged footage and a hypnotic sound score. The new film sequences were recorded in regions with particularly climate sensitive ecosystems, such as Greenland, Alaska and the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia and at various sites around the UK. Combined with images and film clips from the 1940s to the present day, they form a multi-layered montage of politics, history, and fiction.

Parallel themes run through the hour-long work. In six monumental projections these fragments are woven into a whole, and open for a multitude of reflections on the delicate relationship between humans and the planet. Purple is a sequel to Vertigo Sea, which was shown at Bildmuseet in 2015. The museum was the first to exhibit the work following its premiere at the Venice Biennale that same year.

John Akomfrah (b. 1957 in Accra, Ghana) lives and works in London. He was one of the founders of the Black Audio Film Collective, a group of artists and filmmakers dedicated to examining issues of Black British identity. In 1997 he co-founded Smoking Dogs Films with Lina Gopaul and David Lawson (previous members of BAFC), and has since pursued an individual and distinguished film practice. John Akomfrah’s work has been exhibited at Prospect New Orleans; Documenta, Kassel; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Venice Biennale; the Tate Britain, London; the Whitechapel Gallery, London; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and film festivals in Cannes and Toronto, among others. In 2017 he received the prestigious Artes Mundi prize.

Purple is a Smoking Dogs Films production, commissioned by the Barbican, London, Bildmuseet, Umeå; TBA21-Academy, Vienna; The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, and Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon.

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