artist / participant

press release

John Akomfrah - Purple
May 26–September 2, 2019

The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) will open the next season of the Watershed, its new project space in East Boston, with the U.S. premiere of Purple, an immersive six-channel video installation by acclaimed artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah, announced Jill Medvedow, the ICA’s Ellen Matilda Poss Director.

“What astounds me about the art of John Akomfrah is that the beauty, power, and grace of his work conveys a sense of the sublime and the possible, despite its depiction of the powerful impacts of climate change, rising sea levels, and the increase of severe weather. Purple embodies the belief that inward reflection must be paired with active engagement,” said Medvedow. “The ICA is honored to present this important and timely work at the Watershed.”

The artist’s most ambitious project to date, Purple combines found and original film footage to address how human activities has impacted the earth and its effects on communities, biodiversity, and the wilderness. Sited in the Watershed’s industrial building, the themes of Purple resonate deeply with the Watershed’s harbor location and its proximity to the ocean and maritime industries of the Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina. On view May 26 through September 2, 2019, John Akomfrah: Purple is organized by Eva Respini, Barbara Lee Chief Curator, with Cara Kuball, Curatorial Project Manager. Symphonic in scale and divided into six interwoven movements, Akomfrah has combined hundreds of hours of archival footage with newly shot film and a spellbinding sound score to produce the video installation. 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.

Purple has been commissioned by the Barbican, London and co-commissioned by Bildmuseet Umeå, Sweden; TBA21-Academy; The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston; Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon; and Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow.

About the artist Born in 1957 in Accra, Ghana, Akomfrah lives and works in London. 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), 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. His work is featured in Ghana’s first national pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019.