John Akomfrah Represents Britain at the Venice Biennale | John Akomfrah

The British Council has announced that artist and director John Akomfrah will represent the United Kingdom at the 2024 Venice Biennale.

Akomfrah, who was honored with an equestrian medal in the 2023 Honors List, is known for his art films and multi-screen video installations that explore issues such as racial injustice, diasporic identities, migration, and climate breakdown. Next year, the Ghanaian-born artist’s work will fill the British Pavilion in Venice from April through November.

Akomfrah, 65, first came to prominence in the early 1980s as founder of the Black Audio Film Collective (BAFC), one of the first groups to challenge how the black British community was represented on screen and in the media. 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 filmed material and news stories.

Akomfrah’s other works include the three-screen installation The Unfinished Conversation (2012), a portrait of the life and work of cultural theorist Stewart Hall; Mnemosyne (2010), who exposed the economic hardship and occasional racism faced by immigrants in the UK; Vertigo Sea (2015), a three-screen installation that focused on the chaos and cruelty of the whaling industry and juxtaposed it with scenes of generations of migrants crossing oceans in search of a better life; and Purple (2017), his biggest film 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 take action in the immigration debate and offset the “contagion rhetoric” many use to describe the influx of refugees into Europe.

In 2017, the artist won the Artes Mundi Award, Britain’s largest award for international art. He also previously participated in the 2019 Venice Biennale with his piece Four Nocturnes – which was commissioned for the inaugural Ghana Pavilion and reflects the complex and intertwined relationship between humanity’s destruction of the natural world and self-destruction.

Screenshot from John Akomfrah's Four Nocturnes, 2019.
Screenshot from John Akomfrah’s Four Nocturnes, 2019. Photo: Dog Smoking Films with permission and Leeson Gallery

On accepting the commission from the British Council, Akumvra said it was “a great honor and privilege” to be asked to represent the UK at the international art fair. “It’s without a doubt one of the most exciting opportunities an artist can offer,” he said.

“I see this invitation as an acknowledgment and platform for all those I have collaborated with over the decades, and who continue to make my work possible. I am grateful for being given 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. that. “

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

Skander Hundall, Global Art Director at the British Council and Commissioner for the British Pavilion, said: “With a career spanning four decades, the judges felt that Akomfrah had made a very significant contribution to the UK and international contemporary art scene. John’s inspiring style and narrative constantly evolve, revealing insights and questions Home about the world we live in.

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

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