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Larry Achiampong: A Letter, A Pledge

  • Stanley Picker Gallery
  • 25 Jan, 2024 - 28 Mar, 2024

Stanley Picker Fellow Larry Achiampong’s solo show, A Letter, A Pledge centres around two moving image works, processing the imprints of depression, inherited trauma, digital anxiety and Black Masculinity. He will also showcase games and furniture fabricated in the workshops of Kingston School of Art, modelled on Oware games and an original Asante stool which the artist’s mother brought over from Ghana. Achiampong’s films delicately unfurl the tensions of dislocation, lost kin and grief, while placing the visitors in an environment filled with sculptural elements and games as well as karate mats, reflecting on the Okinawan karate’s ‘hard-soft style’.

The film, A Letter (Side B) (2023), looks at the affective impact of history, immigration and geographical separation on two brothers living in Britain and Ghana. The film collapses time, exploring how the past interrupts and impacts in the present and incorporates recent footage filmed by Achiampong in Ghana as well as archival footage from The Museum of African Art: The Veda and Dr Zdravko Pečar Collection in Belgrade, Serbia. Speaking from a deeply personal perspective, the film utilises ‘hacked’ Game Boy Camera, which Achiampong modified to enable the capture of moving image via HDMI. Through the marriage of storytelling and the use of retro technology, the exploration of time travel and the concept of ‘Sanko-time’ becomes possible. Coined by Achiampong in 2017, the term relates to the Ghanaian Adinkra symbol and indigenous Akan term ‘Sankofa’, meaning to ‘go back and retrieve’. Through the nuanced uses of current and older technologies, visuals, sound and recollections of lived experiences and conversations, the film points to the wider social and political consequences of institutional structures and behaviours that threaten the lives of migrants and refugee families.

A Pledge (2024) is a new work that explores the interconnected states of generational trauma, mental and physical health and communal agency. The film begins with the story of a driver and his strained relationship with his father. Depicted through a third-person monologue (voiced by Larry’s son, Sinai Lee Achiampong-Rose), the segment addresses issues of abandonment, inherited trauma and seclusion, whilst holding the rejuvenated promise of connection through the act of driving which the motorist and his father share. Repurposed older technologies, in particular Game Boy Camera moving image presents the story like a driving-based videogame. Shot in 4K resolution at 48 frames per second, the second part of the film depicts a father and son engaging in the practise of Gōjū-Ryū Karate. ‘Gōjū-Ryū’ (剛柔流) is a Japanese term meaning ‘hard-soft style’ used in traditional Okinawan karate to describe the combination of hard and soft techniques.

Larry Achiampong (b. 1984, UK, British Ghanaian) is an artist, filmmaker and musician. He completed a BA in Mixed Media Fine Art at University of Westminster in 2005 and an MA in Sculpture at The Slade School of Fine Art in 2008. Achiampong was awarded the Stanley Picker Fellowship in Art and Design (2020), he was shortlisted got the Jarman Award (2018/2021) and received the Paul Hamlyn Award (2019) in recognition for his practice. Recent major solo projects include Genetic Automata (with David Blandy) at the Wellcome Collection, London (2023-24); Wayfinder at Turner Contemporary Margate/MK Gallery Milton Keynes, and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead (2022-2023); Liverpool Biennial (2021); Relic Traveller: Where You and I Come From, We Know That We Are Not Here Forever, Phi Foundation for Contemporary Art, Montreal (2021); When the Sky Falls, John Hansard Gallery, Southampton (2020); Pan African Flag For The Relic Travellers Alliance & Relic Traveller, Phase 1, 019, Ghent (2019); Dividednation, Primary, Nottingham (2019).

Achiampong’s film, ‘A Letter (Side B)’, was first launched at The Mosaic Rooms, London in Spring 2023. The second film in the series, ‘A Pledge’, has been developed with the support of Stanley Picker Gallery, Kingston University, London. Together, they form part of a larger, ongoing series titled GH0ST_DATA_, delving into the relationship between depression, Black Masculinity, and digital anxiety.