John Akomfrah on the ‘border of cinema’ and the archive

John Akomfrah talks to TateShots about his practice as a filmmaker. The artist discusses how he navigates between the gallery and cinema, what compelled him to make his 2015 work Vertigo Sea, and the influence of Andrei Tarkovsky.

After a tour of his work space at Smoking Dogs, he responds to subjects such as, ‘the border of cinema’, whether he prefers working in film, TV or the gallery, the philosophy of montage, why history matters, and archive and documentary…

…the thing I have spoken a lot about is the how much the archive is a sort of memory bank, which connects it with questions of mortality. Usually at archives you can’t watch stuff without realising that it is also watching people who have gone. That recognition is on it’s own is not very much unless it is married with a second recognition which is that the image is one of the ways in which immortality is enshrined in our pysche and in our lives, you know? And documentaries do that. You make a documentary to both capture something that’s going to die unless it’s captured, but you are also trying to capture something because you want it to live…

John Akomfrah’s essay on Marc Karlin, Illumination and the Tyranny of Memory, can be seen in Marc Karlin – Look Again, edited by Holly Aylett, published by Liverpool University Press. Available now at the BFI shop.

Akomfrah - Look Again

 

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