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Art & Culture

Larry Achiampong Explores Intersection of Christianity, Video Games, and Colonialism in New Exhibitions

  • Culture.org
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  • May 18, 2023
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  • 3 minute read
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Larry Achiampong Explores Intersection of Christianity, Video Games, and Colonialism in New Exhibitions
Key Takeaways
  • Larry Achiampong's exhibitions "And I saw a new heaven" and "Wayfinder" explore the intersection of Christianity, video games, and colonialism.
  • Achiampong challenges the predominantly white portrayal of holy figures in Christianity by overlaying the face of Jesus with a black circle, reminiscent of the racist Golliwog character from colonial-era children's books.
  • The artist incorporates video game footage into his collages, highlighting the lack of diverse representation in both Christianity and gaming.
  • Achiampong recognizes the cultural significance of video games and elevates their status by aligning them with the "high culture" of the church.
  • Gaming influences Achiampong's art, as he incorporates elements of exploration and journey from games like Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask into his artistic projects.
  • Achiampong emphasizes the importance of community engagement through gaming, as evidenced by the inclusion of a gaming room in his exhibition "Wayfinder."
  • The artist sees gaming as advancing faster than film or traditional art in terms of representation and cultural diversity, particularly in the Indie gaming scene.
  • Achiampong's exhibitions encourage individuals to pursue their passions despite challenges, showcasing the transformative power of art and gaming in challenging societal narratives.

 

British-Ghanaian artist Larry Achiampong showcases his innovative approach to confronting colonialism, Christianity, and video games in his latest exhibitions, “And I saw a new heaven” at Copperfield and “Wayfinder” at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.

Juxtaposing Video Games and Religion

In “And I saw a new heaven,” Achiampong presents a fascinating series of five collages featuring the familiar figure of Jesus, albeit with a provocative twist.

The face of Jesus is overlaid with a black circle, reminiscent of the notorious Golliwog character from U.K. children’s books, a racist caricature known for its ties to Britain’s colonial past.

Moreover, these collages are set against the backdrop of outdated graphic layouts, akin to those seen in churches in countries that experienced European colonization.

The artist’s choice to include this aspect seeks to challenge the portrayal of holy figures such as Jesus and Mary as predominantly white, a narrative that was propagated during colonial times.

The collages, housed in wooden frames handcrafted by Achiampong himself, also highlight the often-overlooked importance of manual labor.

Interspersed with the collages, three screens display footage from various video games, including The Binding of Isaac, Bayonetta 2, and Blasphemous, which all draw references from Christianity.

British-Ghanaian artist Larry Achiampong showcases his innovative approach to confronting colonialism, Christianity, and video games in his latest exhibitions, “And I saw a new heaven” at Copperfield and “Wayfinder” at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.

Connecting Cultures and Mediums

Achiampong’s work does not shy away from challenging traditional norms. He not only critiques the overwhelming whiteness of Christianity but also compares it to the lack of diverse representation in computer games.

Additionally, his work brings into focus the cultural significance of video games, often dismissed as mere entertainment, and aligns it with the “high culture” status of the church.

The artist’s love for gaming originated in his childhood, starting with the SEGA Master System in the ’80s and ’90s.

Despite facing criticism during his art school years, Achiampong re-embraced his passion for gaming after becoming a father, admiring its immersive nature and its potential for facilitating communal conversation.

Gaming: An Art Form and Cultural Reflection

Gaming’s influence on Achiampong’s art is evident in his works, including his Glyth ‘Golliwog’ series that references Pac-Man.

He appreciates the journey and exploration aspects of games, such as Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, and incorporates these elements into his art projects like “Relic Traveller” and “Wayfinder.”

In the “Wayfinder” exhibition at Turner Contemporary, Achiampong includes a gaming room to foster community engagement, further signifying the importance of gaming in his artistic process.

He also sees gaming advancing faster than film or art in terms of representation and cultural diversity, particularly in the Indie gaming scene.

Looking to the Future

Achiampong’s next major solo exhibition, “Wayfinder,” debuts later this month at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.

It features an array of his works in multiple mediums and includes his BAFTA-nominated feature-length film.

With his exhibitions, Achiampong encourages those with shared interests to pursue their passion despite potential challenges.

His work serves as a testament to the transformative power of art and gaming, and their ability to challenge and reframe societal narratives.

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