UP:RISE Baff Akoto Marking 10 years since the UK "riots" announced the arrival of 21st Century Britain. - FAD Magazine

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UP:RISE Baff Akoto Marking 10 years since the UK “riots” announced the arrival of 21st Century Britain.


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A new, groundbreaking Augmented Reality artwork by artist Baff Akoto will exhibit nationwide via QR code from August 6th 2021.

Marking the 10th anniversary of the “UK Riots” of 2011 – described by the artist as “the first uprisings of the digital era” – UP:RISE explores the pathology, history and underlying drivers of English civil unrest in the digital age, the evolution in technology that has helped to shape it and how society has since evolved along the same fault lines that erupted that summer.

The QR codes will be located in the communities of Birmingham, Liverpool, London and other cities where incidents of unrest were recorded during August 2011.

The artwork embeds archive of the 2011 civil unrest with additional still and video elements onto an Augmented Reality sculpture. The sound design includes testimonies from those arrested and convicted for offences recorded on August 6th – 11th 2011 – reflecting back on their country, their lives then and in the decade since.
UP:RISE re-casts August 2011 as a key formative moment of 21st Century Britain. 2011’s uprisings were widely reported as the senseless sacking and looting of property by mind-less youth fuelled by opportunistic material greed and BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) encryption. UP:RISE takes a critical and provocative position, re-examining this portrayal and the legacies of August 2011 on the past 10 years. The work and its nationwide public exhibition also reflects on Britain’s postwar tradition of violent civil unrest and community uprisings sparked by police violence, fanned by social deprivation and racial animosity.

With access to public space and social life restricted by the pandemic, UP:RISE seeks to expand the notion of what public art can be. By engaging digitally with non-traditional audiences that previously have been excluded from such conversations, UP:RISE marks a step-change in the conception of public and community art practice in the digital era. Baff Akoto’s AR artwork and accompanying nationwide public exhibition reflects on the UK’s past, present and future. In rendering this new model of public art, Akoto encourages social critique and community engagement by exploring charged social histories while speculating around our shared digital futures.


A Recurring Dreams production supported by Arts Council England and Gap, Akoto’s UP:RISE artwork and exhibition is accompanied by community workshops and a Conversation Series bringing together thought leaders with community and youth voices nationwide to explore the inherent themes of the work, delving into how digital networks connect marginalised people and shape real-world mass dissent. This programme is curated by Akoto and cultural producer Anthea Lewis supported by BOM in Birmingham; FACT and The bluecoat in Liverpool and the Bernie Grant Arts Centre in London.

By offering a 21st-century update, Akoto’s UP:RISE continues the artistic tradition of works that memorialise and commemorate sociopolitical and historical moments, including Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, Accra Shepp’s Occupy portraits, Kara Walker’s Gone and Battle of Atlanta, Mark Wallinger’s State Britain, John Akomfrah’s Riot and Handsworth Songs, Jeremy Deller’s Battle of Orgreave, and Steve McQueen’s Small Axe, to name but a few.

About the Artist

Baff Akoto is an artist and film-maker living in London. Akoto’s work has been exhibited at London’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) and at the British Film Institute (BFI) in their Experimenta strand for ‘works by artists that revolutionise and reshape our vision of the cinematic moving image’.
As a director and producer Baff began as a documentary film-maker, before going on to direct network TV drama at Channel 4 and the BBC, leading to his inclusion on Idris Elba’s BBC New Talent Hotlist. In 2018 Screen International tipped Akoto as a “Star of Tomorrow”. The most recent feature film he has produced QUEEN OF GLORY (from actor and first-time director Nana Mensah) will have its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in June 2021.
Having forged a path within visual arts with mentoring from John Akomfrah and the Oscar-winning Asif Kapadia, Baff’s work embraces the fluidity of visual grammar, notions of plurality, (self) perceptions and societal implications of human bodily movement (disability, ritual, dance).
Most recently Baff’s work explores the artistic potential of VR/AR as he becomes increasingly concerned with how the digital revolution might avoid the same prejudices, exclusions and inequalities which arose from our industrial and colonial eras.
Akoto is a fellow of BOM (Birmingham Open Media) in Birmingham – awarded for his “collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to practice as well as a commitment to social im- pact and research excellence at the intersection of art, technology and science”. For more information please visit here.

Recurring Dreams is a new media and artist studio – founded by L-A Appiah – producing episodic stories, feature film and immersive art. recurringdreams.media



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