John Akomfrah, Purple, 2017. Six-channel HD color video installation with 15.1 surround sound; 62 minutes. Installation view, John Akomfrah: Purple, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, 2018. Courtesy Lisson Gallery and Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza. © Smoking Dogs Films
Co-commissioned by the ICA and making its U.S. premiere at the ICA Watershed, Purple is an immersive six-channel video installation by the acclaimed artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah (b. 1957, Accra, Ghana). Akomfrah draws from hundreds of hours of archival footage, combining it with newly shot film and a hypnotic sound score to address themes related to the implications of climate change across the planet and its effects on human communities, biodiversity, and the wilderness. Sited in the Watershed’s industrial building, Purple resonates deeply with the Watershed’s harbor location and its proximity to the current and historical maritime industries of the Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina. Symphonic in scale and divided into five interwoven movements, the film features various disappearing ecological landscapes, from the hinterlands of Alaska and the desolate environments of Greenland to the Tahitian Peninsula and the volcanic Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific. Purple conveys the complex and fragile interrelation of human and non-human life with a sense of poetic gravity that registers the vulnerability of living in precarious environments.
A founding member of the influential Black Audio Film Collective (1982–1998) and its offshoot, the film and television production company Smoking Dogs Films (1998–present), Akomfrah lives and works in London. His work has been shown in museums and exhibitions around the world including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The New Museum, New York; Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Michigan; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Serpentine Gallery, London; Tate Britain, London; Southbank Centre, London; Bildmuseet Umeå, Sweden; and the 56th Venice Biennale.