Vertigo Sea – John Akomfrah

John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea (film still), 2015. © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy Lisson Gallery.

This month, we will be exploring the work of the acclaimed artist and filmmaker, John Akomfrah. Vertigo Sea (2015) is a three-screen film installation that draws together archival footage, literary sources and newly shot footage, weaving together narratives of slavery, whaling and the current refugee crisis. Initially prompted by a radio interview with a group of young Nigerian migrants who had survived an illegal crossing of the Mediterranean, it expresses the vast beauty and cruelty of the sea. Vertigo Sea was filmed in Skye, the Faroes, Norway with the BBC Natural History Unit and at its core are two remarkable books: Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851) and Heathcote Williams’ epic poem, Whale Nation (1988). Vertigo Sea was one of the standout works at the Venice Biennale in 2015.

Also on show is a video and sound installation – At the Graveside of Tarkovsky (2012) – a meditation on disappearance, memory and death and an ode to the Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky who inspired Akomfrah as a young filmmaker.