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Beyond the World’s End Chapter 1

Molly Gambardella

September, 2021

Annotation: Beyond the World’s End

Chapter one, Feeding the Ghost: John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea

T.J. Demos begins with an analysis of John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea (2015), a three channel video installation commissioned for the 2015 Venice Biennale, and also shown at the New Museum in New York.

“The piece investigates the ocean as a multivalent site of geopolitical conflict, liquid nationality, and postnational uprooting, all set within still-unfolding histories of colonialism, migration, slavery and environmental transformation...perhaps what vertigo sea offers is ultimately optimism if not without its cruelties: where past injustices have failed to utterly destroy their aftermath, we can maintain hope, despite all, of a different time to come. If that time will not necessarily redeem what has been, then at least, as dramatized by Akomfrah, it insists on holding historical failings within the realm of visibility - so that they will not ever be forgotten in the creation of future alternatives.” 1

Akomfrah’s work discusses a wide range of intersectional topics over a long timeline. The installation evokes a complicated and wide range of emotions.

It is extending my research question by further exemplifying that “nature” in this case the ocean, is not a joyful happy place. I tend to think of open space as a type of freedom and Vertigo Sea is illustrating how any open space is complicated and think of how to acknowledge that.

It informs my practice in the ways I stated previously, but it also contradicts my artistic practice. I wanted to view this work in its entirety online, but I only found shaky incomplete snippets on Youtube. I feel complicated [do you mean “conflicted”?] about having my work primarily intended for a gallery or privileged audience. How can I find ways to push past these contradictions?

For contemporary art, in a historical discourse, this artwork is very expansive. Vertigo Sea can illustrate complicated topics without words, but its message is still understood by the audience. So how can immersing yourself in different sounds and images affect you and culture as a whole? Really interesting.


1. Demos, T. J. (2020). Beyond the world’s end : arts of living at the crossing. Durham ; London Duke University Press, page 42.

M's commnets - Annotation BTWE, Chapter 1
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