John Akomfrah will represent Great Britain at the Venice Biennale

John Akomfrah will represent Great Britain at the Venice Biennale
John Akomfrah will represent Great Britain at the Venice Biennale

Artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah will represent the UK at the Venice Biennale in 2024, the British Council has announced.

Akomfrah, who was honored with a knighthood in the 2023 Honors List, is known for his art films and multi-screen video installations exploring issues such as racial injustice, diasporic identities, migration and climate degradation. Next year, the Ghanaian-born artist’s work will fill the British pavilion in Venice from April to November.

Akomfrah, 65, first rose to prominence in the early 1980s as the founder of the Black Audio Film Collective (BAFC), one of the first groups to challenge the way Britain’s black community was portrayed in film. screen and in the media. The BAFC’s first film, Handsworth Songs, explored the events around the 1985 riots in Birmingham and London through a combination of archival footage, stills, newly shot material and newsreel.

Akomfrah’s other work includes the three-screen installation The Unfinished Conversation (2012), a portrait of the life and work of cultural theorist Stuart Hall; Mnemosyne (2010), who exposed the economic hardship and occasional racism faced by migrants in the UK; Vertigo Sea (2015), a three-screen installation that focused on the disorder and cruelty of the whaling industry and juxtaposed it with scenes of generations of migrants making epic ocean crossings in search of a better life; and Purple (2017), his largest film installation to date, which dealt with the climate crisis.

He previously told the Guardian that moving to the UK at the age of four gave him a ‘moral obligation’ to make work that interjects into the migration debate and offsets the ‘rhetoric of contagion’ used by many to describe the flow of refugees into Europe.

In 2017, the artist won the Artes Mundi award, the UK’s top prize for international art. He also participated in the Venice Biennale in 2019 with his piece Four Nocturnes – which was commissioned for Ghana’s inaugural pavilion and reflected the complex and intertwined relationship between humanity’s destruction of the natural world and the destruction of self.

An image from Four Nocturnes by John Akomfrah, 2019. Photography: Courtesy of Smoking Dogs Films and Lisson Gallery

Accepting the commission from the British Council, Akomfrah said it was a “huge privilege and honour” to be asked to represent the UK at the international art exhibition. “It is without a doubt one of the most exciting opportunities that can be presented to an artist,” he said.

“I consider this invitation as recognition and a platform for all those with whom I have collaborated over the decades and who continue to make my work possible. I am grateful to have a moment to explore the complex history and significance of this institution and the nation it represents, as well as its architectural home in Venice – with all the stories it has told and will continue to tell.

The British Council has been responsible for the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale since 1937. Artists including recent Golden Lion winner Sonia Boyce, Tracey Emin, Phyllida Barlow and Steve McQueen have all represented the UK in the past .

Skinder Hundal, Global Arts Director at the British Council and British Pavilion Commissioner, said: “With a career spanning four decades, the judges felt that Akomfrah had made a very significant contribution to the contemporary British art scene and international. John’s inspiring style and storytelling have continually evolved, revealing key insights and questions about the world we inhabit.

“The quality and contextual depth of his art never fails to inspire deep reflection and admiration. For the British Council to have such an important Anglo-Ghanaian artist in Venice is an exhilarating moment.

. John Akomfrah will represent Great Britain Biennial Venice Jean Akomfrah

. John Akomfrah represent Great Britain Venice Biennale

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