Acclaimed artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah draws from hundreds of hours of archival film for an immersive six-channel video installation, combining it with stunning new footage to address climate change and its effects on human communities, biodiversity and wilderness across the planet. 

Sited in the Watershed building of the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) (25 Harbor Shore Drive in Boston), Purple resonates deeply with the Watershed’s harbor location and its proximity to the current and historical maritime industries of the Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina. Symphonic in scale and divided into five interwoven movements, the film features various disappearing ecological landscapes, from the hinterlands of Alaska and the desolate environments of Greenland to the Tahitian Peninsula and the volcanic Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific. Purple conveys the complex and fragile interrelation of human and non-human life with a sense of poetic gravity that registers the vulnerability of living in precarious environments.

A founding member of the influential Black Audio Film Collective (1982–1998) and its offshoot, the film and television production company Smoking Dogs Films (1998–present), Akomfrah lives and works in London. His work has been shown in museums and exhibitions around the world including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The New Museum, New York; Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Michigan; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Serpentine Gallery, London; Tate Britain, London; Southbank Centre, London; Bildmuseet Umeå, Sweden; and the 56th Venice Biennale.

Purple is on view until September 2 (Tues., Wed, Sat + Sun. 11am-5pm and Turs. + Fri. 11am -9pm).

The ICA Watershed, opened in the Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina in summer 2018, transformed a 15,000-square-foot, formerly condemned space into a vast and welcoming venue to see and experience large-scale art in East Boston. 

Admission to the Watershed is always free, and Water Shuttle transportation between the Watershed and the ICA is included in ICA admission.

Visiting the ICA Watershed