Lisson Gallery 2016 Exhibition

The second work Auto Da Fé (2016), which translates as Acts Of Faith, is a diptych that looks at migration through the lens of religious persecution. Presented as a poetic period drama, the film presents a series of eight historical migrations over the last 400 years, starting with the little known 1654 fleeing of Sephardic Jews from Catholic Brazil to Barbados. As the film develops, we are presented with tale after tale of populations being displaced along religious lines, right up to the present day migrations from Hombori, Mali and Mosul, Iraq. Religion, persecution and migration are, it seems, old and continuing bedfellows. The work was filmed on location in Barbados, but the landscape is deliberately anonymous, reflecting the universal nature of these stories.

Vertigo Sea Exhibition Guide

Vertigo Sea is a solo exhibition of two new works by internationally acclaimed artist and filmmaker, John Akomfrah. His films address important themes through
a rich, multi-layered visual style that is both poetic and political. Placing archival film footage alongside still photography and new material, the artist investigates
complex relationships between memory, identity, mortality, and filmmaking.
At the heart of the exhibition, on Level 1, is a recent 48-minute long film installation Vertigo Sea from which the exhibition takes its title. On the Ground Floor in Gallery 1, a new work Tropikos is shown as a companion piece. Both works are particularly
relevant for presentation here and now. They relate strongly to Bristol’s maritime history and its links to the transatlantic slave trade, as well as pressing issues related to the global migration of refugees and ecological concerns.

A Q&A with… John Akomfrah, artist and filmmaker

For Artes Mundi, Akomfrah is showing Auto Da Fé (2016), a beautifully shot and stylised two-screen film weaving together six stories of mass migration that have taken place over a 400-year time span.

Auto Da Fé is the film you’re showing at the Artes Mundi exhibition. Is this the work that best represents what you’re doing at the moment?
Yes, I think so. The film is important to me because it takes questions of migranthood, which I’ve been interested in forever, in other directions. It’s about what I call the ‘microspheres of transience’, which is a very poncy way of saying something simple, which is that even lives which are formed by ceaseless movement have worlds, have microspheres. These worlds have values and meanings. And so the idea behind Auto Da Fé is to find the values behind six sets of migrant stories, stories which are formed against a backdrop of chaos. And I think that all lives lived on the edge of the precarious share certain things. It doesn’t really matter whether those communities are 16th or 18th century Ashkenazi or Sephardic Jews in the Caribbean or the Yazidi communities on the borders of Syria and Iraq. There are threads.

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