Larry Achiampong (b. 1984) & David Blandy (b. 1976)
Achiampong & Blandy have been making work collaboratively since 2013. Starting in 2014 they produced a series of films and installations under the title Finding Fanon, referring to the work of Frantz Fanon (1925-1961) the politically radical humanist whose practice dealt with the psychopathology of colonisation and the social and cultural consequences of decolonisation. In the films, the two artists negotiate Fanon’s ideas, examining the politics of race, racism and the post-colonial, and how these societal issues affect their own relationship.
The series of films titled FF Gaiden are works in which Achiampong & Blandy have repurposed the virtual space of the video game Grand Theft Auto 5 to generate landscapes through which digital avatars make their journeys. The series is made in collaboration with external contributors, groups with whom the artists developed written scripts, synthetic voiceovers and character avatars to generate these stories of identity and migration, cultural history and social change. The groups include paperless migrants at Mennisker i Limbo (People in Limbo), in Oslo; veterans in prison at HMP Altcourse, Liverpool and Nottingham’s Women’s Cultural Exchange. The word ‘gaiden’ is Japanese for a ‘side story’ and in the digital gaming world is used to describe a spin-off of an existing gameworld, in this case the digital avatars used in Finding Fanon.
Larry Achiampong & David Blandy’s work has been exhibited at Tate Modern, London; The Baltic, Gateshead; Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefied; Fact, Liverpool; BFI London Film Festival, London; Transmediale Festival, Berlin, Germany & Fort Worth Contemporary Arts, Texas, USA. They were shortlisted for the Film London Jarman award 2018.
Larry Achiampong & David Blandy, Finding Fanon Part Three: Prologue, 2016
Ultra HD colour video, stereo sound
Installation view at Tate Modern, London
Finding Fanon Part Three: Prologue is a story based on the collaboration of Sartre and Fanon and their recognition of the problems and pain caused by the economically and politically powerful on the less privileged, particularly, of the colonised. It is a meditative, naturalist cinematic portrayal on the fragility of friendships and brings the story of Fanon and Sartre’s collaboration to life; it is a minimalist story of friendship, loss and alienation in the current era.
The two characters in tweed suits, are on a journey on foot with their children. As the hours progress and the landscape evolves, the two families move through a range of subtle emotions, enacting a pilgrimage of mutual confusion, sudden insight and recurring intimations of a larger battle. When they arrive at their final destination, a shelter made deep in the woods, they must either confront the divergent paths they have taken or somehow transcend their growing tensions in an act of forgiveness and forging a new way towards a more equal future.
Larry Achiampong and David Blandy, FF Gaiden ESCAPE, 2017
Installation view at ‘Untitled: Art On The Conditions Of Our Time’, New Art Exchange, Nottingham
FF Gaiden is a series of works, where Achiampong & Blandy have used the virtual space of the video game Grand Theft Auto 5 to make work in collaboration with various groups such as paperless migrants at Mennisker i Limbo (People in Limbo), in Oslo; Tyneside Cinema’s young digital group, The Factory and with a group of veterans in prison and family members at HMP Altcourse in Liverpool. The word ‘gaiden’ is Japanese for a ‘side story’, and in the digital gaming world is used to describe a spin-off of an existing gameworld.
Larry Achiampong & David Blandy, FF Gaiden: Legacy, 2017
UHD video with sound
Collection of Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Castleford Heritage Trust
This works was co-produced by the artists and the group People in Limbo in Oslo in 2016, facilitated by PRAKSIS. It tells the life stories of those who are not official citizens of any place, through open-source footage from the Grand Theft Auto 5 video game. The YSP and Castleford Heritage Trust edition tells the story of local resident Alison Catherall. Born and still living in Castleford, the birthplace of Henry Moore, Alison’s story parallels that of her hometown, telling of the impact of the decline in local industries and mine closures, as well as her hopes to raise aspiration and inspiration amongst the town’s young people and families through education, culture and heritage.
FF Gaiden: Legacy was shown as part of Revolt & Revolutions, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2018
Larry Achiampong and David Blandy, A Terrible Fiction, 2019
Single channel HD video with sound
Commissioned by Arts Catalyst, London
A Terrible Fiction forms the first part of an ambitious new body of works by the artists, exploring race and identity in an age of avatars, video games, and DNA Ancestry testing. Concepts of race and ethnicity in science over the last century have been split between two main perspectives. One, rooted in the eugenics movement, treats racial and ethnic categories as biological classifications. The other, stemming from social science, regards race and ethnicity primarily as cultural and historical constructs with very little biological significance. Even after the human genome was decoded in 2003, which scientists believe proved there was no biological basis for race, the arguments continue to rage. Genetic Automata forms the first part of an ambitious new body of film-based works by the artists that attempt to address this complex history of classification and segregation.
Larry Achiampong & David Blandy, FF Gaiden: Black Death, 2017
Ultra HD colour video with sound
“FF Gaiden: Black Death continues Larry Achiampong and David Blandy’s remarkable body of work exploring the psycho-pathologies of racism as postulated by Frantz Fanon. Enlisting the voice of Kamile Ofoeme, the short film, created within the video game Grand Theft Auto V, is perhaps the most lyrically arresting, aggrieved and provocative work in their ‘Finding Fanon’ series (2015–ongoing). ‘Thatcher weren’t the first to bring the bad stuff, massacres and madness,’ Ofoeme intones, whilst calling out an increasingly hostile UK Home Office whose draconian policies continue to reiterate a long history of racial discrimination and hypocrisy.” Jamie Sutcliffe, Frieze Magazine 2017