Transfigured Night by John Akomfrah
Courtesy of Carroll / Fletcher
It looks like Carroll / Fletcher is now becoming my fetish adventure. Once again, I went... and I stayed longer than I planned. First, there was this hip-hop kitsch of Rashaad Newsome in the entrance, and then his room of “operatic” impro vocalisation of men who are men who play women who play men conducted via a Nintendo gadget.
In John Akomfrah (see also post on the Stuart Hall Project)’s room, here is a two-screen installation Transfigured Night. “We neither face East nor West, we face forward” starts the screening with Kwame Nkrunah. A Man is observing the world via a window. What have we human done to other humans? Conflicting images of poverty, wealth, a child dragged by an armed soldier, African incantation, peaceful images. It’s an observation in a “rear window” going forward. The film is balanced by quotes from Nietzsche's Daybreak “Man and things.-- Why does man not see things? He is himself standing in the way: he conceals things.”; from Franz Fanon and so on. A moving piece lastin about 30 minutes.
Downstairs Phoebe Boswell welcomes you with a living room setting reflecting on draught using different “gadgets” including a beautiful animation on milk...
JOHN AKOMFRAH, PHOEBE BOSWELL, RASHAAD NEWSOME
7 March - 10 April 2014
Carroll / Fletcher is pleased to present a group exhibition that brings together the distinct but interconnected practices of John Akomfrah, Phoebe Boswell and Rashaad Newsome. Through media ranging from film, animation, performance, collage and sculpture, the three artists seek to explore the cultural frameworks and politics associated with identity. The exhibition considers the effects that our historical and cultural origins have both on a personal level and on the fabric of contemporary society.
Rashaad Newsome's practice cuts across performance, video, collage and sculpture in order to explore the symbolism associated with contemporary African-American culture. His work addresses issues of race, class, gender and sexuality through cultural amalgams, combining elements of pop-based imagery and the visual language of hip hop culture, such as diamond bling and urban beats, with "high cultural" forms including heraldry, ornament and the aesthetics of the baroque.
Newsome's fascination with the aesthetics of "high culture" is evident in his series of intricate, richly detailed collages composed of layers of images of luxury items sourced from glossy magazines, encased in ornate antique frames embellished with some of the artist's signature motifs. This distinct visual language is also developed in the opulent Herald and King of Arms series, inspired by an exploration of Western European coats of arms.
Working like an anthropologist, Newsome's performance video Shade Compositions studies the body language associated with hip hop/African-American culture. Following a choreographed sound score, the piece is composed of repeated gestures, movements, and vocalisations. The artist acts as a conductor as he remixes the audio live using a Nintendo® Wii™ game controller, alluding to improvisatory orchestral music.
For the last 30 years John Akomfrah has been committed to giving a voice and a presence to the legacy of international Diaspora in Europe; to fill in the voids in history by mining historical archives to create film essays and speculative fictional stories about past lives. His poetic, polyphonic films create sensual audiovisual experiences while developing a filmic language to understand the trauma and sense of alienation of displaced subjects; one that moves away from the rhetoric of resentment to propose new agents and perspectives.
Akomfrah's two-screen installation Transfigured Night (2013), takes Richard Dehmel's poem Verkärte Nacht (transfigured night) as a point of departure to reflect upon postcolonial histories. The artist draws a parallel between the promise to bring up someone else's child in the poem and the promise made on the eve of a new era to the newly independent post-colonial state.
Born in Kenya and brought up as an expatriate in the Middle East, Phoebe Boswell combines traditional draughtsmanship and digital technology to create charged drawings, animations and installations that tell layered, global stories of human endeavour anchored in a personal exploration of the notion of 'home'. For this exhibition, Boswell will present The Matter of Memory*, the multimedia installation for which she won the Sky Academy Arts Scholarship in 2012, which reflects on aspects of Kenya's history - her history - by drawing upon and reinterpreting her parents' memories.
The work responds to various childhood stories from Kenya recounted to Boswell by her "ki-settler" father (a fourth generation Kenyan settler) and Kikuyu mother, in an attempt for the artist to piece together her own definition of 'home'. Presented as a colonial style living room, much like the one she recalls from her own memories of childhood visits to Kenya, the immersive, multi-sensory installation aims to take the viewer on a narrative journey through personal histories, where revelations of uncomfortable truths emerge embedded within the fabric of this familiar space through audio monologues, projected hand-drawn animations, wall drawings and animated objects. From the vantage point of a person who grew up removed from the site of her heritage but very much a product of a post-colonial partnership, the work explores the effect Kenya and its colonial past had on the often opposing childhoods of Boswell's parents.
* A term sourced from the book Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor