Vertigo Sea is a poetic and affecting meditation on man’s relationship with the sea, and its role in the history of slavery, migration, trade, and conflict. In this monumental video installation, the beauty and vitality of the marine environment and the abundance of aquatic life are brought into contrast with the destruction of animal and human life on the seas and surrounding coastlines.
Informed by literary works including Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851) and Heathcote Williams’ epic poem Whale Nation (1988), Vertigo Sea’s references to the whaling industry, transatlantic slave trade, and fatal migrant crossings are interwoven with poetry and testimony. In Akomfrah’s distinctive style, he combines archival film clips and footage from the BBC Natural History Unit with new material shot on the Isle of Skye, the Faroe Islands, and the Northern regions of Norway.
Please note: Vertigo Sea contains occasional scenes of violence, including humans in distress at sea, humans held captive, and the hunting of whales, bears, and deer.
John Akomfrah (b.1957) is a highly respected British artist and filmmaker, whose works are characterised by investigations into memory, post-colonialism, temporality, and aesthetics, and often explore the experiences of migrant diasporas. Akomfrah was a founding member of the influential Black Audio Film Collective, which started in London in 1982 alongside artists David Lawson and Lina Gopaul, with who he still collaborates today.
Recent solo exhibitions include: Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA, USA (2020); Secession, Vienna, Austria (2020); BALTIC, Gateshead, UK (2019); ICA Boston, MA, USA (2019); Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon, Portugal (2018); New Museum, New York, USA (2018); Bildmuseet, Umeå University, Sweden (2015, 2018); SFMOMA, San Francisco, CA, USA (2018). Recent international group shows include: Ghana Pavilion, 58th Venice Biennale, Italy (2019); Prospect 4, New Orleans, LA, USA (2017); ‘Unfinished Conversations’, Museum of Modern Art, New York City, USA (2017); ‘British Art Show 8’ (2015-17) and ‘All the World’s Futures’, 56th Venice Biennale, Italy (2015).
Vertigo Sea is jointly owned by Towner Eastbourne and Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum of Wales. Acquired with support from Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation), the Derek Williams Trust, The Search Foundation through the Contemporary Art Society, and Towner Collection Development Fund.