Sunday, December 8News For London

John Akomfrah’s Purple: Using film to explore humanity and our impact on the environment

With Rubber tires piled in a corner and plastic water jugs hanging from the ceiling, The Curve at Barbican has been transformed into a conservationist’s nightmare.

Pictures on the wall show people standing in the countryside with remanence of human intrusion. At the back of the exhibit is the main event; six screens that interweave the story of human existence and its relationship with the environment.


Plastic water containers hang like a chandelier from the ceiling of Barbican’s The Curve at the ‘Purple’ exhibition.[Photo: Thomas Joa]
John Akomfrah’s ‘Purple’ blends archival footage with his own material to create a montage of ideas and perspectives on the issue of climate change. The film is displayed over six screens and combines powerful visual and audio to shock the senses of the viewer. With so many different stimuli, the viewer must have a fine-tuned ability for finding the key aspects within the work.

The chaos of sights and sounds mimics that of an actual conversation, which is another aspect of the work. Akomfrah’s is essentially creating within his work what he hopes will happen because of it.

in a press release for the exhibit, Akomfrah said: “The Curve is one of the most challenging international arts spaces I know of. And I feel both blessed and honoured to be exhibiting here. The challenges ahead of us, of how we treat the planet and relate to matter and beings are daunting and hyperreal. I hope these works contribute in a small way to some of the very necessary conversations we need to have about the uncertain roads ahead.”

When Barbican approached Akomfrah about creating a piece for The Curve they gave him full creative freedom. His choice use six screens to take up the main portion of the venue reflects the challenges of working in that exhibit space.

Akomfrah has taken the challenge in stride and created an ambitious piece that works both in the space and as a medium for his message. For Akomfrah, the work represents another milestone in his journey as a story teller. Mixing in the vast array of material, Akomfrah’s installation is emotionally proactive and shows how interconnected people are with the world we live in.

Those who go to see the exhibition should plan to spend about an hour and a half to fully absorb both the installations and the film. ‘Purple’ will be on display at The Curve until January 8, 2018. It opens at 11 am and closes at 8 pm Saturday through Wednesday and is open until 9pm on Thursday and Friday.