John Akomfrah’s team approached me to produce a set of Gicleé prints for his exhibition The Unintended Beauty of Disaster at the highly prestigious Lisson Gallery in London.
His dynamic and thought-provoking art is powerful in drawing attention to contemporary events and in December 2020 when our discussions began, these included the Black Lives Matter protests, demonstrations against imperialist monuments, and man-made ecological disaster and its role in humanity’s path to self-destruction. We worked toward a tight deadline as the exhibition kicked off on 13 April.
The show featured a series of new photo texts exploring colour and race. This was supplied as digital artwork. These works are part of his 2020 Our Skin is a Monument. The work incorporates a still from the American film ‘Carmen Jones’. The still is placed in a Shirley card, that has been used since the 1940s to calibrate skin-colour balance. For decades only white models were used to set colour parameters which had a dramatic effect on how Black skin was rendered on film.
To best showcase John’s art, we collaborated on the paper choice and test prints for colour optimisation. Once perfected, we printed 54 images for the Monuments of Being series.Some of the prints were embellished with gold text. A further four 40 x 60 inches prints were produced for the Our Skin is the Monument series.
I believe we helped enhance John’s artwork toward achieving his objective “to express the diversity of Black characters, characteristics and characterisations that should form the bedrock of any de-colonial or anti-racist future”.