Vertigo Sea, a three-screen film, first seen at the 56th Venice Biennale as part of Okwui Enwezor’s All the World’s Futures exhibition, is a sensual, poetic and cohesive meditation on man's relationship with the sea and exploration of its role in the history of slavery, migration, and conflict. Fusing archival material, readings from classical sources, and newly shot footage, the work explicitly highlights the greed, horror and cruelty of the whaling industry. This material is then juxtaposed with shots of African migrants crossing the ocean in a journey fraught with danger in hopes of ‘better life’ and thus delivering a timely and potent reminder of the current issues around global migration, the refugee crisis, slavery, alongside ecological concerns.
Shot on the Isle of Skye, the Faroe Islands and the Northern regions of Norway, with the BBC’s Bristol based Natural History Unit, Vertigo Sea draws upon two remarkable books: Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851) and Heathcote Williams’ epic poem Whale Nation (1988), a harrowing and inspiring work which charts the history, intelligence and majesty of the largest mammal on earth.
After showing in Bristol, Vertigo Sea will tour nationally as part of the ACE Strategic Touring Programme that has been awarded to Arnolfini as the tour leader. The exhibition will be shown at Turner Contemporary in Margate and Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, with other potential partners to be announced shortly.
John Akomfrah is an artist and filmmaker whose works are characterised by their investigations into personal and collective histories and memory, cultural, ethnic and personal identity, post-colonialism and temporality. Importantly, his focus is most often on giving voice to the experience of the African diaspora in Europe and the USA.