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Things that are left unspoken...


By Melis Dumlu

@melisxdumlu






Larry Achiampong 'WayFinder' 2022. Feature-length single- channel 4Kfilm with stereo sound. Commissioned by Turner Contemporary with MK Gallery and Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.© Larry Achiampong. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2022. Courtesy the artist and Copperfield, London


For most people, internal narratives become the pillars of our core beliefs, experiences and memories. Without a story, there is no self.


We play a role in each other’s stories, adding a part of ourselves and giving it to the next as they become the web that connects us. Stories help us to understand the world; to realise who we are and what we desire. There is both doom and glory in knowing that we are part of something much greater than ourselves.


What makes us wonder and question is the same burning feeling that drives the need to create. This leads us to design paths, routes, memories and dialogues throughout our journeys, where we accept and welcome invitations to an ongoing story. This is how we are welcomed into Larry Achiampong's film 'Wayfinder'.


Larry Achiampong 'WayFinder' 2022. Feature-length single- channel 4Kfilm with stereo sound. Commissioned by Turner Contemporary with MK Gallery and Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.© Larry Achiampong. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2022. Courtesy the artist and Copperfield, London


A Wanderer, played by Perside Rodrigues, travels through England from North to South. Against the backdrop of a pandemic, the Wanderer passes through spaces, landscapes, and towns, encountering people, stories and situations along the way. Separated across six chapters, the film features active dialogue about class, belonging, displacement, economic injustice, cultural heritage, and the meaning of home. Achiampong addresses an unreconciled history of empire and inequality, reflecting on the division and crisis in the UK today.


Drawing on aspects of Achiampong's life story, the Wanderer uses monologues and prose as proverbs for reflection. Oral traditions such as sharing proverbs, folktales, songs and dances within African cultures are highly valued for their power to create intimate connections between individuals, and for making room to talk about difficult topics. 'Wayfinder' encourages us to discuss our feelings and consider thoughts which aren’t typically spoken but should or could be.


Larry Achiampong 'WayFinder' 2022. Feature-length single- channel 4Kfilm with stereo sound. Commissioned by Turner Contemporary with MK Gallery and Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.© Larry Achiampong. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2022. Courtesy the artist and Copperfield, London


Born in London to a Ghanaian mother, artist Achiampong uses his practice to walk through time and place, shaped by proverbs touching upon social histories and colonialism. Raised by a single mother, Achiompong and his siblings were sometimes brought to work as she cleaned London Offices, moving through the rooms and chairs of people who decide our futures.


In Achiampong's films, there is an underlying, yet loud and clear, reference to class and inequalities hiding in the places we try to call home. But the safety of home is questioned in the reality of alienating violence. Alienation makes people feel distant or estranged, a dehumanizing assault on belonging for those within a country or community.


We see this in countries where people are born, but whose cultural heritage is labelled as marginalised. Within the arts sector, there seems to be a focus on marginalised artists within an artificial, binary view of the role of race. Works of art which have a complex story are reduced to cultural elements and described as the artist “talking about race”. Dominican American writer Junot Diaz calls this phenomenon liberal and cultural amnesia, which impoverishes vocabulary and perspectives. He argues that if White artists were discussed with racial terms as often as other ethnicities, we would be a better world. We never see White artists discussing how their race impacts their work, but in a strange way, this cultural amnesia is also the grounds for hope. Hope to exist within our own identity.


Larry Achiampong 'WayFinder' 2022. Feature-length single- channel 4Kfilm with stereo sound. Commissioned by Turner Contemporary with MK Gallery and Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.© Larry Achiampong. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2022. Courtesy the artist and Copperfield, London


It seems that the identity we adopt today cannot be separated from the cultural heritage we carry. Many artists have a long history of confronting these labels and challenges, from not being at home in their homeland to being exiled in the places they feel they belong. Living in exile is a uniquely human experience that can come from endeavouring on our journeys and stories in search of a home. We might also call stories that help us realise we are greater than identity a discovery of belonging. American novelist Toni Morrison argues that there is a blur that can enshrine borders, both metaphorically and psychologically, as we wrestle with definitions of nationalism, race, ideology and the so-called clash of cultures in our search to belong.



Larry Achiampong: Wayfinder (installation view). Baltic Centre for contemporary Art, Gateshead. Photo: Reece Straw© 2023 Baltic


'Wayfinder' is the first major solo exhibition of Larry Achiampong and features various multi-disciplinary works of sculpture, photographs, video and a gaming room. In his own words, he imagines it as "leaving the keys to the car there for people to kind of drive away and have a good time for themselves" because feeling as if you belong is one of the greatest triumphs of human existence. Achiampong's exhibition not only encapsulates this feeling but also encourages others to partake in the conversation. I highly recommend immersing yourself in ‘Wayfinder’s dialogue at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, available to view until the 29th of October.


The 'Wayfinder' exhibition has been organised by Turner Contemporary with MK Gallery and Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, who also commissioned the film 'Wayfinder'.


Larry Achiampong: Wayfinder (installation view), Baltic Centre for contemporary Art, Gateshead. Photo: Reece Straw© 2023 Baltic. Level 2 Gaming Room: 'Gaming Room' Larry Achiampong: Wayfinder, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead. Photo: Reece Straw© 2023 Baltic

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