John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea is a three-screen, 48-minute meditation on humankind’s relationship with the sea, and an exploration of its role in the history of slavery, migration and whaling.
Fusing dramatic footage from the BBC’s Natural History Unit, archival material from British Film Institute and newly shot tableaux in the Isle of Skye, the Faroe Islands and Norway, Vertigo Sea draws upon two remarkable books: Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851) and Heathcote Williams’ epic poem Whale Nation (1988). The work explicitly highlights the greed, horror and cruelty of the whaling industry, evoking memories of the slave trade, whilst juxtaposing sequences of migrants making a terrifying and dangerous journey across the ocean in search of a ‘better life’.
The immersive installation delivers a timely and potent reminder of current issues around global migration, the refugee crisis and ecological concerns.
John Akomfrah is an artist and filmmaker whose works are characterised by their investigations into personal and collective histories and memory, cultural, ethnic and personal identity, postcolonialism and temporality. Importantly, his focus is most often on giving voice to the experience of the African diaspora in Europe and the USA.
Opening Event: The Exchange, Friday 29 April 2016. All welcome. 7.30-9pm (Members-only Reception 6.30-7.30pm). With pay bar and food. FREE – no need to book.
Vertigo Sea is presented at Newlyn Art Gallery with financial support from Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund awarded to Arnolfini, Bristol as the lead venue for the tour. During 2016 and 2017 the work travels to further venues in the UK including Turner Contemporary in Margate and The Whitworth, Manchester.
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