Wayfinder review – pandemic dream quest through Britain’s mythic landscape

NSritish-Ghanian artist Larry Achiampong has created a complex and thoughtful piece, partly under the aegis of the Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate. It is a curation of scenes and images that straddles the concepts of the essay movie, the road movie and – that emerging genre – the lockdown movie. Perside Rodrigues portrays a young woman of colour who is making a kind of mythic or hallucinatory journey, a dreamed quest through a British landscape from north to south, in which she often seems like the only person left alive, reflecting on her experience of empire, identity and racism. It is set in a notional future time of pandemic (and filmed during the real pandemic lockdown) and shows this figure mostly alone in an eerily untenanted world, sometimes carrying or wearing a weird gas mask. Achiampong recently told the Guardian that he had in fact made these masks for his own family during lockdown.

There is one face-to-face encounter: the Wayfinder meets Britain’s first black female Olympic athlete, the sprinter Anita Neil, who speaks powerfully and positively about her feelings of pride in being able to represent her country and community in a time when the establishment were ungenerous, to say the least, to someone from her background. The Wayfinder walks past Hadrian’s Wall, の中へ E Pellicci’s café in east London, through the Turner wing of the National Gallery where she impassively looks at pictures that celebrate British naval and imperial adventure, before ending up at Margate, whose faded glamour has often been an inspiration for British film-makers. Wayfinder is a slightly static work, though intentionally so, with some striking images of solitude and alienation.

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