On the way to watch purple at the Barbican by John Akomfrah, I noticed a phrase on the deck before boarding the train “SORRY, a hundred years old but still too daring today. #ToArtItsFreedom”. This is a perfect starting point in tackling any controversial topic today and climate change, is no exception. There is a tendency push to the side these very real issues of human activities that aggravate the degradation of the earth perhaps because addressing them would require a strenuous amount of thought, sacrifice and complete shift in the way we do things. Also, the way these topics have been addressed in the past seems to always allude to the idea of apocalyptic chaos, I find; which never helps as it makes one feel  powerless and that any actions to this end. Experiencing the work of  the British artist, film director and theorist of Ghanaian descent John Akomfrah, in person was particularly inspiring. There is a passive radicalism to his approach on the ponderous topic about the politics of climate change in cinematic form with a six screen film installation.

The set up of this film is testament to his digression from the alarmist discourse in most eco-documentaries. His, is a more reflective, contemplative and meditative call to action through visuals and sound though not correlated to the usual film format of progression from beginning to end. The videos displayed of five movements on a loop are linked but all addressing the varied complex material on ethics, human interaction, education, globalisation, consumerism, industrialism, technology, environmental change, life and death.

The melancholic scenes of the creation of arid areas within seas, thousands of birds species laid waste, the acoustic quality of water ever present with a visual ripple effect were resolutely selected and included to stimulate the mind with bursts of colours, textures, sound and imagery while still outlining the destructive effect of human activity. For a moment, one forgets that this connotes to the wiping out of mother earth and dwells in its audio-visual mesmerism. There’s a distinct mastery of the medium Akomfrah has chosen to address our ecological devastation that transcends ordinary eco-documentaries and instead invokes a shared collective sorrow for mother earth.

Through this film, I began to see the significance of developing a practice that relies on extensive research in collaboration with several fields of knowledge. A well as the power of soft suggestive artistry in the dissemination of complex  topics such a climate change.







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