John Akomfrah: Future History – Vertigo Sea

John Akomfrah: Future History – Vertigo Sea

Vertigo Sea is a video essay by contemporary artist John Akomfrah screening in SAM’s galleries continuously from March 5–May 3. As part of John Akomfrah: Future History, an exhibition of three video essays, Vertigo Sea (48 min) reviews man’s relationship with the sea and its role in environmental change as well as the history of slavery, migration, and conflict. Vertigo Sea is a three-channel video that lyrically explores the sea’s incomprehensible grandeur in our current moment on the verge of climate crisis. Akomfrah combines stunning scenery, archival footage, and literary texts, to encourage new ways of looking at history and imagining the future.

As Akomfrah has said, “Art can pose problems in unique ways, allowing for other meaningful dialogues. It’s about proposing, not imposing.” Akomfrah finds poignant segments from the audiovisual archives of the 20th century and mixes them together with high definition documentary footage and recreations to prompt new understandings about the history of the planet. The exhibition experience includes a space to reflect on the video essay and how it inspires viewers to commit to changing their relationship with the environment. There are also opportunities to engage with other visitors on the impact of Vertigo Sea.

The film is accessible to all: Free community passes can be requested through our website, first Thursdays of each month, tickets are half price, and on March 5, opening day, the exhibition is free from 5–9 pm during the Community Opening Celebration. Increasing awareness and appreciation for the environment through footage from both above and below the ocean is one way of increasing sustainability—by creating personal impressions on the importance of the sea in our lives throughout time.

Please note that Vertigo Sea contains occasional scenes of violence, including humans in distress at sea, humans held captive, and the hunting of whales, bears, and deer. A family-friendly video alternative to Vertigo Sea will be screening in an adjacent area. A Herring Opera, by Ellie Schmidt, is a 26 minute vision of aquatic life in Alaska.