Exhibition

Sublime Seas

John Akomfrah and J.M.W. Turner

March 3–September 16, 2018

Floor 7

This exhibition presents the U.S. premiere of Ghana-born British artist John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea. Debuting at the Venice Biennale in 2015, this captivating, three-channel video installation encompasses fictional narrative, natural history documentary, and film essay, referencing Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851) and Heathcote Williams’s poem Whale Nation (1988), among others. Taking the viewer on an immersive aural and visual odyssey that explores the greed and cruelty of the whaling industry, the transatlantic slave trade, and the current refugee crisis, this intricately woven cinematic triptych positions the current crisis of refugees across the globe in a longer historic perspective of race, migration, and commerce.

Vertigo Sea will be paired with The Deluge, a dramatic depiction of the Biblical flood by the celebrated painter J.M.W. Turner (British, 1775–1851), which was selected by Akomfrah for this exhibition. Sublime Seas resonates with the San Francisco Bay Area’s maritime history and its position as a port for migrants — a point of both the start and end of epic journeys.

Entry to this exhibition is included with general admission.


Member Preview Days are Thursday, March 1 and Friday, March 2.

Header image: John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, 2015 (detail); © Smoking Dogs Films; courtesy Lisson Gallery

Exhibition Preview

  • Installation view, John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea

    John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, 2015 (installation view); © Smoking Dogs Films; courtesy Lisson Gallery

  • Dramatic painting of figures struggling in an apparent shipwreck in the stormy sea

    Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Deluge, exhibited 1805; Tate, London; photo: courtesy Tate, London

  • John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, installation view

    John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, 2015 (installation view); © Smoking Dogs Films; courtesy Lisson Gallery

  • John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, installation view

    John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, 2015 (installation view); © Smoking Dogs Films; courtesy Lisson Gallery

  • A black man dressed as an 18th century British sailor against a dramatic landscape

    John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, 2015 (still); © Smoking Dogs Films; courtesy Lisson Gallery