John Akomfrah: Purple | Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston

John Akomfrah: Purple | Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston


My name is John Akomfrah. I occasionally write. I make, occasionally, works for the cinema. But most of the time I exist in the gallery world. Purple, I suppose, has grown
out of a series of frustrations and dissatisfactions. One of the things
that’s been preoccupying me more and more was doing something about histories
of chemicals or weather systems or species. This is not the 18th century
anymore. It’s not unlimited landscapes and unlimited space to explore ad infinitum,
wasting away, trashing away as we go along. Game over. And that sense of game over,
of finitude and the encroaching closure is the animating impulse behind
works like this. I wanted people to feel the sense that they were in the presence
of something multiple. If you choose to focus just on one screen,
it can and does tell a story. But it’s better not to. (laughs) Because the devolving stories that each screen is telling all have a relation to each other.
They’re all taking cues from each other, they’re all in conversation with each
other. They’re all mindful, I think is the best word to use – they’re mindful of each
other’s presence. I mean, you just have to make choices all the time
watching Purple, and every time you choose something, you’re also omitting
something else. Which paradoxically means that there’s room for a review, that there’s room for a
re-encounter and a re-engagement and the idea is that there will
always be the ambiguity of choice, so that we can have these
conversations all the time. Once the work stops forcing me to do that it seems to
me that it’s lost its value. So there’s something that I’m really looking
forward to about it being here, because they seemed haunted by the same
things – both the location and the object are marked by these afterlives, you know,
industrial maritimic afterlives. And so it will be interesting to see quite
what happens when they actually meet. There’s this magic, literally, this voodoo,
to how works come into being in places. I have an idea of what I think would work
here, but you know what? The very situating of it will be the surprise. Something else will happen once works are in place because they come alive. It’s one of the most difficult pieces I’ve ever worked on, and actually not because of the images
but the sound. The sound was really complicated.
I had three attempts when we did it, thought it had worked,
showed it and thought, “no.” I went back again and had another go. So what you’re getting here will be literally the best I can do. (laughs)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *