In Madrid: ‘Relic Traveller’ Series Screening and Online Talk with Larry Achiampong & Katherine Finerty


Sala Azcona, Cineteca Madrid, Spain

A special screening of the five films currently comprising Larry Achiamping’s evolving Relic Traveller series, a multi-disciplinary project manifesting in performance, audio, moving image and prose. This screening is the first time all five Relic Traveller films to date will be shown together live. This will be followed by an online conversation with the artist and Contra la Raza [Against Race] Co-Curator Katherine Finerty (Curator-at-Large, The Showroom, London).

Achiampong’s body of work serves as both a physical platform and speculative landscape for Contra la Raza, centring multidisciplinary approaches in telling decolonial narratives about identity, migration, technology, agency and imagination. His Relic Traveller series has been evolving since 2017 as a multi-site project mixing visual poetry with generational healing. It explores the past, present and future through narratives of Pan Africanism and African diasporic identity in relation to colonialism, postcolonialism and the heightened nationalism of current times.

Two videos in this series are also currently playing on loop in Nave 0, Matadero Madrid until 28 November 2021– the first in the series, Relic 0 (2017), and the most recent Reliquary 2 (2020) – activated by paraphernalia, conceptual imagery illustrated by Wumi Olaosebikan and fabrications from the second series of Pan African Flags For The Relic Travellers’ Alliance. This installation sets the stage for an immersive call and response between colonial ghosts to future progeny.

The Contra la Raza [Against Race] exhibition evokes futuristic imaginaries expressed through poetics of the Black experience, generating new forms of global and egalitarian humanism. This live programme invites you to meet some of the artists participating in the project. This proposal, curated by Katherine Finerty in collaboration with Raúl Muñoz de la Vega, takes as its departure point the exhibition curated by Elvira Dyangani Ose and The Showroom, London for the last edition PHotoEspaña. Join us to take part in a programme including screenings, conversations and performances, and revisit the exhibition in Nave 0 which will stay open until the end of November.

Contra la Raza [Against Race] questions how imagery in audiovisual formats communicates from a global Black and Pan-Africanist perspective. Inspired by the eponymous book by British historian Paul Gilroy, Against Race: Imagining Political Culture Beyond the Color Line (2000), the live programme of events will address the fundamental role played by decolonial and anti-racist movements in the historical and contemporary fight for human rights, appealing to our collective consciousness to advocate for the establishment of a new planetary humanism.

This event was recorded and is available in the Resources section of our website. Watch Here

Images: Relic Traveller Series Screening, Contra la Raza [Against Race] live programme, Cineteca Madrid, 2021. Courtesy of Matadero Madrid and The Showroom, London. Photos: Fernando Tribiño

Relic 0, Larry Achiampong, UK, 2017, 10’, DCP

Relic 0 is the prelude to Larry Achiampong’s Relic Traveller: Phase 1. It is a short film that moves between African and Western based vistas and focuses on specific architectures of colonialism as delivered by an anonymous narrator. These discoveries deliver poetic moments of the sublime met with increasingly harrowing tales of trauma – speaking to the sinister way that states of anxiety, fear and displacement are both generated and policed in postcolonial society. The throb of the electronic score and ringing clarity of the narrator’s testimony usher in a new landscape and temporality, born from cracks in a traumatised, apocalyptic present. Relic 0 is an artwork made possible with funding from Southbank Centre | Hayward Gallery, Jerwood Charitable Foundation & Arts Council England.

Relic 1, Larry Achiampong, UK, 2017, 14’, DCP

In Relic 1, a Relic Traveller apparates in sites across a seemingly desolate United Kingdom. Uncovering fragments of audible data presenting clue-like testimonies to a forgotten Empire, the Relic Traveller soon finds themself in an atmosphere that simultaneously delivers poetic moments of the sublime met with increasingly harrowing claustrophobia and tales of trauma. Thus resulting in a familiar feeling of otherness, we are invited on a journey that embodies hysteria. Relic 1 is an artwork made possible with funding from PS/Y & Arts Council England.

Relic 2, Larry Achiampong, UK, 2019, 16’, DCP

The third film in what is currently a pentalogy, Relic 2 forms part of Relic Traveller: Phase 2, centred within themes related to Afrofuturism. This speculative project considers the social and political climate of current times; the rise of nationalism within the global West and tensions surrounding moments such as the United Kingdom’s leave ‘Brexit’ vote in 2016. Meanwhile, the African Union’s passport programme (also established in 2016) points toward the potential opening of borders across a unified African continent in the future. With these instances, the Relic Traveller series imagines a future in which the global West devolves to a point of decline, whilst the African Union ascends into prosperity, harmony, independence and responsibility in shaping the future of the planet.

Relic 3, Larry Achiampong, UK, 2019, 13’, DCP**

Picking up from Relic 2, a journey begins for one traveller just as another has ended for the former – upon this expedition a new testimony is uncovered. Detailing the struggles of a migrant worker as they try to make a life in a hostile, alien environment, Relic 3 encompasses aural tales of sexual manipulation, violence and exploitation whilst visually marrying impactful vistas from the Abandoned Lido (Margate, UK), Greenwich Foot Tunnel (London, UK) and Wanstead Flats (London, UK). At this unspecified point in time amongst an ambitious set of new initiatives, the African Union create the ‘Relic Travellers’ Alliance’, a programme that equips Relic Travellers with space-travelling technology for the sole purpose of venturing outside of the African Union to retrieve vocal information left by those whom had been historically oppressed as a result of political systems such as colonisation, capitalism and globalisation. These uncovered testimonies are collected and used as a basis for the African Union to responsibly govern the future informed by a bottom-up perspective. The film features a haunting, solemn score written by Achiampong with Cello played by Jonathan Holland.

Reliquary 2, Larry Achiampong, UK, 2020, 13’, DCP

The fifth film in the Relic Traveller series, Reliquary 2 acts as a response to COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown. The film is a work formed of animated sequences and unseen drone footage from Achiampong’s personal archives, complemented by an original score composed and performed by the artist. The film is a meditation on a period of separation between Larry Achiampong and his children, where the artist observes his own familial narrative within the pandemic and the trauma of forced isolation during unprecedented times. Speaking directly to his children, Reliquary 2 is an archive of contemplative prose and a historical record during what has been a surreal and challenging period for many.

Ancestry and familial relationships are integral to the artist’s examination of postcolonial identities. Previously, where he has revisited memories of the past with his mother, this piece is consciously projected towards the future, using the present to provide and shape a dialogue with his progeny. In engaging in this form of intergenerational dialogue, the experiences of the present are regarded with a consideration that has been historically absent in the treatment of his ancestor’s narratives. Agency and technology are a primary focus in Achiampong’s practice and have proven prescient especially as a response to the stasis of a period of enforced quarantine. Digital technology has been relied upon for many as the sole means of interaction and communication, and has become embedded within our daily lives to become an intimate projection of ourselves as much as avatars to hide behind. Reliquary 2 features animation by Wumi Olaosebikan.

Relic Traveller: Phase 1, 2 and 3 is created by Larry Achiampong and produced by Nephertiti Oboshie Schandorf.

This live programme accompanies the project Contra la Raza [Against Race] at Matadero Madrid 3 June - 28 November 2021, originally part of the framework of PHotoESPAÑA 2021 proposed by Guest Curator Elvira Dyangani Ose. This multidisciplinary initiative incorporates a video-based installation and live programme appealing to our collective consciousness to advocate for the establishment of a new planetary humanism.

Matadero’s dark, soaring Nave 0 hosts a multimedia installation of Relic Traveller by Larry Achiampong, alongside a group screening of audiovisual works by artists including Ramone Anderson, Rubén H. Bermúdez, Sally Fenoux Barleycorn, Amartey Golding, Jérôme Havre, Julianknxx, Katia Kameli, Kiluanji Kia Henda, Grada Kilomba, Mónica de Miranda, Nástio Mosquito, Paulo Nazareth, Heidi Ramírez, Sara Sadik, Berni Searle, Cauleen Smith, Camille Turner and Belinda Zhawi.

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