John Akomfrah, Arcadia, 2023 © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Smoking Dogs Films and Lisson Gallery
John Akomfrah: Arcadia
Nov 30, 2023 – Jun 2, 2024
The Box
Plymouth, UK

With beautiful visuals of landscapes from across the globe, stunning underwater footage and a haunting soundtrack, John Akomfrah’s Arcadia reflects on ‘The Columbian Exchange’ – the widespread transfer of plants, animals, precious metals, commodities, populations, technology, diseases and ideas between the Americas, Afro-Eurasia and Europe – the ‘New World’ and the ‘Old World’ – from the 1400s onwards.

The film is presented across five screens in the shape of a cross with a multi-layered narrative featuring storms, restless seas, vast skies, beaches, ice fields, mountains, rivers and forests.

We see how miraculous our planet is, but the epic scenery and landscapes are ‘interrupted’ by images of cargo, symbols of trade, ageing boat hulks, microbes, cells and people suffering from smallpox. They combine to evoke ideas of migration, journeys, colonial encounters, how things travel and spread, growth and decay.

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