John Akomfrah: Listening All Night To The Rain – British Pavilion Venice Biennale

Portrait of John Akomfrah. Photographer: Christian Cassiel © John Akomfrah; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

John Akomfrah’s highly-anticipated commission for the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale promises to be a poignant exploration of memory, migration, racial injustice, and climate change.

The exhibition, set to run from April 20 to November 24, 2024, marks a significant moment in Akomfrah’s career. It delves into the act of listening and the sonic, reimagining the neoclassical space of the British Pavilion with eight interlocking multi-screen sound and time-based installations. The exhibition is envisioned as a manifesto, urging visitors to consider listening as a form of activism while exploring various theories of cosmology.

Embracing a non-linear storytelling approach, “Listening All Night To The Rain” invites viewers to navigate through a labyrinth of narratives that transcend geographical and temporal boundaries. Akomfrah’s signature collage-style storytelling weaves diverse voices and perspectives, challenging conventional notions of history and memory.

Speaking about the project, Akomfrah remarked, “Listening All Night To The Rain alludes to the performative power that the sonic will hold in the Pavilion. The final ensemble of installations – iterations of cosmology – detours back to questions of memory and the memorial but from a different vantage point, questioning the architectonics of the present and the spectres of the past, with the idea of listening as activism in mind.”
Tarini Malik, Shane Akeroyd Associate Curator of the British Pavilion, hailed Akomfrah’s commission as a testament to the artist’s commitment to amplifying voices from Britain’s global south and diasporic experiences. Addressing complex historical narratives, “Listening All Night To The Rain” profoundly reflects on contemporary life and its intersections with the past.

Skinder Hundal, Global Director of Arts at the British Council, expressed excitement about the project’s potential to provoke dialogue and inspire change. With support from sponsors like Burberry and Art Fund, the exhibition promises to be a visually stunning and intellectually stimulating experience.

In a departure from tradition, the British Council will collaborate with partners to host a series of public events and artistic responses that extend the themes of the British Pavilion to global audiences. This cross-disciplinary initiative underscores Akomfrah’s influence on younger generations of artists and filmmakers, fostering a vibrant exchange of ideas and perspectives.

As preparations for the exhibition gather momentum, anticipation mounts for Akomfrah’s immersive exploration of sound, memory, and activism. With its evocative storytelling and thought-provoking themes, “Listening All Night To The Rain” is poised to captivate audiences and spark conversations that resonate far beyond the confines of the British Pavilion.

John Akomfrah, RA (born 1957), lives and works in London. He is known for his immersive multi-channel film installations, which explore significant issues, including racial injustice, colonial legacies, diasporic identities, migration and climate change.
The London-based artist became prominent in the early 1980s as part of the Black Audio Film Collective (BAFC), which was founded in 1982. An early film by BAFC, titled Handsworth Songs (1986), explored the events around the 1985 riots in Birmingham and London. In recent years, Akomfrah’s work has evolved into ambitious, multi-channel installations presented in galleries and museums worldwide. In 2017, he won the Artes Mundi prize, the UK’s most significant award for international art. He has previously participated in the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia with Four Nocturnes, commissioned for the inaugural Ghana Pavilion in 2019, and Vertigo Sea (2015) as part of the 56th International Art Exhibition, curated by Okwui Enwezor (‘All the World’s Futures’).

Photo: Portrait of John Akomfrah. Photographer: Christian Cassiel © John Akomfrah; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

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