• Search Icon
  • Toggle Menu
  • Close Menu

Vertigo Sea (triptych) (2015)

John Akomfrah

three-channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound

Towner Eastbourne Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, Cardiff

© Smoking Dogs Films Courtesy Smoking Dogs Films and Lisson Gallery



Moving Image


HD Video


48 : 30 minutes


Jointly owned by Towner Art Gallery and Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum of Wales Acquired with support from Art Fund, the Derek Williams Trust, The Search Foundation through the Contemporary Art Society, and Towner Collection Development Fund, 2019/20

Ownership history:

Purchased from the Lisson Gallery by the Contemporary art Society with support from the Art Fund, Derek Williams Trust, The Search Foundation and Towner Collection Development Fund, 2019/20; presented to the Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne and Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum of Wales, 2019/20


Black (presence)
John Akomfrah is a filmmaker and artist known for his deeply moving works which reflect on diaspora, colonialism, migration and identity. He was a founding member of the Black Audio Film Collective in 1982 in collaboration with seven fellow artists and had his directorial debut with the film Handsworth Songs (1986) about the 1985 Handsworth Riots. The collective created work that centred on the experiences of diasporic communities living in Britain amongst racial tension and political strife. Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea takes the ocean as its protagonist, meditating on the relationship between humanity and the sea. The three-channel film, originally made for the 2015 Venice Biennale, explores the sea as a character in slavery, migration and conflict. Akomfrah uses archival material, footage shot on the Isle of Skye, the Faroe Islands and Norway with the BBC’s Natural History Unit, as well as staged scenes. The result is an epic vision of political and ecological unrest. Scenes of breaching whales and natural beauty transition into news reports of migrants drowning at sea. Modern footage of the whaling industry segues into archival film of the atomic bomb test at Bikini Atoll in 1946. The film employs Akomfrah’s signature montage technique to integrate disparate scenes in a unifying vision of awe and terror. A sensual, poetic and cohesive meditation on man’s relationship with the sea and the exploration of its role in the history of slavery, migration, environmental destruction and conflict, Vertigo Sea (2015) comes to Towner Eastbourne and Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, Cardiff with the context of both gallery’s location, situated on the coast. Vertigo Sea extends the way the museums represent artists’ film in their collections and underlines their ambition to acquire an internationally important collection of contemporary art.

All rights reserved. Any further use will need to be cleared with the rights holder. Permission granted to reproduce for personal and educational use only. Commercial copying, hiring, lending is prohibited.

Read our copyright policy for more information.

Artworks by John Akomfrah

Browse more relevant artworks.

You Might Also Like