Larry Achiampong: The Expulsion

As part of our new online video commissions programme, John Hansard Gallery is pleased to present The Expulsion by artist Larry Achiampong.

Commissioned by The Gallow Gate in 2019, the short film highlights the rich interior world of an unnamed migrant with references to themes of race, class and gender, and is a deeply personal work from Achiampong’s imagination.

In this work, Larry Achiampong invokes the energy and memories of a pre-gentrified 1990s East London; weaving testimonies and daydreams with the monotonous rhythms of physical labour and the weight of frustrating consumerist aspirations in the city’s West End.

The narrator forces an imagined viewer to look at what has been made unseen; cleaners, labourers, janitors, porters, bouncers and sanitation workers each attempting to claim the spoils (and that which has been spoiled).

Achiampong guides us through to a shadow world of “invisible” workers by transmuting the common acts of cleaning and maintenance into something that has the power of the rituals of prayer or a sequence of launch codes. Each repetition evokes an attempt to reach apotheosis, to leave the loop or at the least; shake off the signifiers of difference and poverty.

Occupying various processes of (re)exploring time travel (via the spoken word, the visualisation of a memory and the ambiance of an evolving soundtrack), this work builds on Achiampong’s concept of sanko-time, a theory at the core of the artist’s recent practice. Based in the Ashanti word “sanfoka” – roughly translated as to go back for what has been left behind. Sankofa also alludes to using the past to prepare for the future; essentially, the wish of being able to go back to an immutable point to make sure that what has been lost is not lost no longer. Although a new term, it reflects resilience from the oldest traumas of the African diasporas.

Shot in 4k resolution, The Expulsion’s lyrical script, undulating visuals and hypnotic original score connect an ever-present past to current concerns of societal iniquity, class ceilings and erased histories.

The Expulsion formed part of When the Sky Falls, Achiampong’s exhibition with John Hansard Gallery earlier in 2020 before lockdown measures were put in place.

Larry Achiampong is represented by Copperfield Gallery.

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