No. 339: John Akomfrah

Episode No. 339 of The Modern Art Notes Podcast features artist John Akomfrah.

The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University is presenting John Akomfrah’s three-channel video installation Precarity (2017-18), a work that it commissioned for its collection and that debuted at the Ogden Museum as part of the recent Prospect 4 triennial in New Orleans. (Nasher chief curator Trevor Schoonmaker was the curator of Prospect 4.)

Precarity loosely tells the story of coronet player Buddy “King” Bolden, the most popular musician in turn-of-the-twentieth-century New Orleans and a man known for improvisation and volume. In 1907, under circumstances that remain unclear, he was permanently committed to the State Insane Asylum in Jackson with schizophrenia. There are no known surviving recordings of Bolden’s work, but historian Ted Gioia credits Bolden and his band with being the originator of what we now call jazz. The film is as much an exploration of New Orleans and southern Louisiana, its history and how its history impacts the present as it is a consideration of Bolden. Precarity is on view at the Nasher through September 2.

Akomfrah, a British artist of Ghanaian descent, is one of the founders of the Black Audio Film Collective, which was active between 1982 and 1998. The collective used film and media to examine issues of Black British identity through film and media. Since then Akomfrah and his producing partners Lina Gopaul and David Lawson co-founded Smoking Dogs Films. Akomfrah’s work has been shown at the Tate Britain, the ICA London, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

On the second segment, we’ll hear host Tyler Green’s March conversation with Akomfrah, taped when the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art presented the U.S. debut of John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea in “Sublime Seas: John Akomfrah and J.M.W. Turner.” The exhibition, which pairs a film installation Akomfrah made for the Venice Biennale in 2015 with Turner’s The Deluge, is at SFMOMA through September 16. It was curated by Rudolf Frieling.

Air date: May 3, 2018.

John Akomfrah, Precarity (still), 2017. Three-channel HD video (color, sound), 46:03 minutes.

John Akomfrah, Precarity (still), 2017. Three-channel HD video (color, sound), 46:03 minutes.

John Akomfrah, Precarity (still), 2017. Three-channel HD video (color, sound), 46:03 minutes.

John Akomfrah, Precarity (still), 2017. Three-channel HD video (color, sound), 46:03 minutes.

John Akomfrah, Precarity (still), 2017. Three-channel HD video (color, sound), 46:03 minutes.

John Akomfrah, Precarity (digital installation view), 2017. Three-channel HD video (color, sound), 46:03 minutes.

John Akomfrah, Precarity (digital installation view), 2017. Three-channel HD video (color, sound), 46:03 minutes.

John Akomfrah, Precarity (digital installation view), 2017. Three-channel HD video (color, sound), 46:03 minutes.

John Akomfrah, Precarity (digital installation view), 2017. Three-channel HD video (color, sound), 46:03 minutes.

J.M.W. Turner, The Deluge, ca. 1805.

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