Press Release

John Akomfrah (b. 1957) creates thoughtful video works of haunting audiovisual intensity. He tells of the radical changes and crises of the present and past on characteristic large-format screens. From November 9, 2023, to January 28, 2024, the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt is presenting for the first time a comprehensive overview of the artist’ work in Germany, featuring a selection of three major multichannel installations from recent years: The Unfinished Conversation (2012, 54:48 minutes), Vertigo Sea (2015, 48:30 minutes), and Akomfrah’ new work, Becoming Wind (2023, 31:45 minutes).



International exhibitions

International Archives 2nd half of 2023

John Akomfrah, A Space of Empathy

Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt-am-Main (Germany)

09.11.2023 - 28.01.2024




A co-founder of the influential London-based Black Audio Film Collective (established in 1982), Akomfrah’ work interweaves newly shot film sequences with archival material to create multilayered, at times associative collages, frequently in the form of simultaneous narrative structures. Akomfrah’ immersive installations critically examine colonial pasts, global migration, and the climate crisis. He addresses one-dimensional historical representations by allowing multiple perspectives to emerge in the narrative, disrupting the notion of linearity and the illusion of a one and only truth.

Dr. Sebastian Baden, director of the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, says: “hat makes John Akomfrah’ work so impressive is the consistency with which he keeps connecting narrative strands concerning migration, the climate crisis, and colonial pasts. He seeks to raise awareness of these major contemporary issues as an international artist. His timeless installations blend newly filmed sequences with archival material to produce images charged with evocative emotionality. There is no better moment than now to bring Akomfrah’ complex questions about the coexistence of human nature and the environment to Germany and to the Schirn, in order to discuss them here.”

The exhibition commences with a reading room, which can be accessed free of charge during the Schirn’ opening hours, even without a ticket for the exhibition. The publications that have been assembled there relate directly or by association to John Akomfrah’ oeuvre and the core themes of his work. The collection of books from his own library has been supplemented with additional volumes. The works produced by this artist are invariably preceded by extensive research, which incorporates both material on film and a highly diverse range of books. The open reading room can be used for various activities: for browsing, being lost in thought, or having conversations.

Julia Grosse, the exhibition’ curator, notes: “ohn Akomfrah aims to create what is unseen, untold, and unheard. His installations evoke poetic and powerful images to describe the urgency of these themes, yet without moralizing about them. As an artist, he manages to integrate and represent complex associations in a manner that is multidimensional and differentiated. Rather than confining his interest to human viewpoints, Akomfrah is always mindful of the narratives of other life forms that share our planet, such as plants and animals. His work provides a shift in perspective and questions the consequences of collective and individual action. Essentially, he would like to create a space of empathy with visitors.”

The exhibition John Akomfrah: A Space of Empathy is supported by Stadt Frankfurt. A catalog John Akomfrah: A Space of Empathy, edited by Julia Grosse and Sebastian Baden, has been published, with contributions by Julia Grosse and Nelly Y. Pinkrah, an interview with the artist John Akomfrah, along with a foreword by Sebastian Baden.

Director: Dr. Sebastian Baden

Curator: Julia Grosse

Exhibition 11 November 2023 - 04 February 2024. Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Röerberg - 60311 Frankfurt am Main (Germany). T +49 69 2998820. Hours : Tuesday, Friday–Sunday 10am – 7pm - Wednesday, Thursday 10am – 10pm





John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea (still), 2015. Three channel video installation, 7.1 sound, 48:30 min., © Smoking Dogs Films, Courtesy Smoking Dogs Films and Lisson Gallery.

John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea (still), 2015. Three channel video installation, 7.1 sound, 48:30 min., © Smoking Dogs Films, Courtesy Smoking Dogs Films and Lisson Gallery. John Akomfrah, A Space of Empathy, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany

© ArtCatalyse International / Marika Prévosto 2023. All Rights Reserved