No. 394: Holiday clips: John Akomfrah

Episode No. 394 of The Modern Art Notes Podcast is a holiday weekend clips program featuring John Akomfrah.

The ICA Boston is presenting the U.S. debut of John Akomfrah’s Purple. It opens today to East Boston residents and ICA members, to the general public on May 26, and will remain on view through September 2. Purple is a six-channel video installation that addresses climate change and its effect on human communities, biodiversity and the wilderness. The work is installed at the new ICA Watershed.

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. 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.

This week’s interview was taped in April, 2018 on the occasion of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University’s presentation of 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. 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. Speaking of Bolden, his life is the subject of the new film “Bolden,” which is in theaters now. It stars Gary Carr as Bolden and features original music written, arranged and performed by Wynton Marsalis.

Images are available here.

Air date: May 23, 2019.

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