For Larry Achiampong’s first major solo exhibition in the Americas, the PHI Foundation presents Relic Traveller, a large-scale, multidisciplinary project ongoing since 2017. Taking the form of a series of immersive installations specially conceived for the Foundation’s spaces and for the city of Montréal, this exhibition is composed of sculpture, images, film, sound, and a public art component.
Through his futuristic alter ego, Achiampong is an archivist, collecting connections to his roots and gathering together the voices of collective memory to rethink colonialism, postcolonialism, Africanism, and Pan-Africanism. These reflections generate a unique vocabulary that problematizes and resists current discourses and trends. What, and who, is marking and shaping history, and who is allowed to leave a trace? Achiampong’s experience of diaspora, the importance of family and genealogical roots, and the significance of preservation and imagination all contribute to his project of creating a universe for everyone. Relic Traveller builds on themes of lost testimony, fallen empire, and displacement, marking and questioning what is remembered and what will remain. A constantly evolving project, Relic Traveller speaks to the artist’s personal journey, which is presented as an archive and as documentation of his vision of the future.
The exhibition consists of three interrelated installations. The Relic Travellers’ Alliance: Assembly 1 & 2 (2021) is a brand-new work that introduces us to two major aspects of the artist’s cosmology: spacesuits and flags. The presentation of Achiampong’s specially designed spacesuits suggests a tension between the agency of a body in flight and resistance to the tenets of ethnographic display. The spacesuits are brought into conversation with the series of flags PAN AFRICAN FLAGS FOR THE RELIC TRAVELLERS’ ALLIANCE (2017-2021).
The Relic film series—comprised of Relic 0 (2017), Relic 1 (2017), Relic 2 (2019), and Relic 3 (2019)—is presented throughout the week in an alternating sequence. A new work, Reliquary 2 (2020), joins the series. Composed of animated sequences and heretofore unseen drone footage from Achiampong’s personal archive, this film is the artist’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown that temporarily separated him from his two children. The films are screened alongside Achiampong’s original 2017 series of flag works, mentioned above, which are presented in a unique configuration. The flags will also be presented in an outdoor poster campaign, to be seen in specific locations around Montréal.
The exhibition will also feature Reliquary Conceptual Imagery (2020), a mural installation composed of illustrations from Achiampong’s film Reliquary 2. These images were created for the film by Wumi Olaosebikan, a.k.a. Wumzum, a professional illustrator, muralist, and animator based in London and a long-term collaborator and friend of the artist.
Both anticipating and responding to the present moment, Larry Achiampong’s works address race, class, history, and technology to imagine the future through a very personal lens. Even as our experience of time has been altered by the pandemic, and as certain historical inequalities have been made more visible, we too may be compelled to reflect on what is, and to envision, boldly, what is to come.
Co-curators: Victoria Carrasco and Cheryl Sim
• Every Wednesday: Relic 0 (2017) 10 min 10, Reliquary 2 (2020) 12 min 56
• Every Thursday: Relic 1 (2017) 14 min 12, Reliquary 2 (2020) 12 min 56
• Every Friday: Relic 2 (2019) 10 min 50, Reliquary 2 (2020) 12 min 56
• Every Saturday: Relic 3 (2019) 12 min 35, Reliquary 2 (2020) 12 min 56
• Every Sunday: Relic 3 (2019) 12 min 35, Reliquary 2 (2020) 12 min 56