Photo: Max Layton

An Interview with Larry Achiampong

We sat down with Larry Achiampong ahead of his solo show at MK Gallery to discuss his background, work, and what the future holds.

Could you introduce yourself, and the exhibition?

My name is Larry Achiampong. I’m an artist, and I work across a range of media which includes film, sculpture, sound, performance… I’m referred to as a multi-disciplinary artist, which really means that I get bored doing the same thing, so I try to challenge myself a lot.

At the heart of my practise is an interest in conversations that surround identity and relationships with the digital age. It involves approaches to time travel, the archive, and what that means on a personal level.

The show that we have here is titled Wayfinder; it’s a touring show, which will be moving across sites. It’s opening here at MK Gallery soon, and previously it was showing at Turner Contemporary, and it will finally show at BALTIC in Gateshead next year.

Why do you think the exhibition is a good match for Milton Keynes?

It’s a good fit for a place like Milton Keynes in terms of its diversity of people within the area, and people from non-European backgrounds especially. That’s not to say that people from European backgrounds can’t take interest within the work, I think there’s an aspect of locality in various kind of levels or strata that I think people will be able to connect with.

But really, at the heart of this show is a conversation about journeys; journeys in the sense of what migration means on a personal level, but also on a social, and in certain cases, a political level.

Some of your works were created a few years ago – do you think they will still hold social relevance in the future?

I would hope that the works that I’ve made a couple of years ago, and some more years prior to the show, will have a certain relevance. More and more within my practises I make works where I’m very much thinking about legacy; I’m very much thinking about what time might mean to the words that are being expressed figuratively or literally. So I do think about how the work might be taken in. I don’t have control over that, and that’s not something I would want to have control over. But what I do have control over is imagining that the work will still exist.

If we take my film works for example, I’ve shot them all in 4K spec. I’ve done that on purpose because I want them to exist in cinemas. As far as I’m aware, the standard for showcasing cinematic work is not likely to change. I can see the work existing 40, 50, 60 years down the line. Not only that, but I do feel that the conversations and subject matter at the heart of these works will be important to topics that continue to marinade into the future.

Do you believe that the mediums you use are the best ways to portray your messages and feelings?

For me, the mediums I use are the best ways that I’ve been able to approach or converse some of the messages I’ve put into the work. It’s the reason why I work across different forms; because as much as I feel the power of video or film, a physical object, for example my chalkboard series [Detention, 2016- Present], could also convey additional ideas in a different way. No medium, for me, is a ruler over the other. They all have their place, and my place as a practitioner is making the decision of what best fits the approach to output, where physicality is concerned.

Is there any advice you would give to young artists who would like to get their work out there?

Thinking back to my own perspective when I was younger, I was using social media in the earlier days, with the likes of Myspace. But now it’s all about Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, that kind of thing. I think social media is a great way to be able to simply get the message out there, in terms of the work, but also to connect with other people. It’s a good space, but it’s not the only space. It’s an effective one, but it’s not the only one. It’s certainly important in being able to connect with people who may be thousands of miles away. From my own background, I never had disposable income, nor do I have the kind of money now to travel from one place to the other across the planet, unless I’m being paid to do it.

I think it’s important to remember that there’s only so much that you can achieve on your own. It’s important to find bridges to connect with other practitioners. You may not agree on everything, and to be honest, that could be good thing, because everyone might bringing something different to the table. That’s actually something to celebrate, as long as nobody’s being hurt. So that aspect of collaboration is important, even if you’re an artist who loves to be in a room on your own. There’s only so far you can get on your own, but at the same time you have to find your way of doing things. Just because people like doing crits doesn’t mean you have to. You might want to listen to music or talk about memories. You can do that as well.

Don’t let anyone tell you that there is a right or wrong way to do things. I think that some of the greatest ideas, and some of the people who I think are the most important practitioners in their field, have done things their way. Again, as long as you’re not hurting anyone, do things your way. If it doesn’t exist, you build it.

Larry Achiampong: Wayfinder is open at MK Gallery from Sat 15 October 2022 – Sun 15 January 2023. Click here to learn more.