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68 A5577

Art as Relic?

  • Article
  • PHI Foundation
By  Daniel Fiset  &  Kim Johnson

Theme: Art as Relic?

In his exhibition Relic Traveller, multidisciplinary artist Larry Achiampong explores the idea of a Pan-African crew entrusted with the mission of listening to, preserving and giving voice to stories from the African diaspora. Achiampong’s relic travellers are essentially explorers—collectors of cultural truths and heritages. In this essay, we reflect on and interpret the words used to describe the artist’s futuristic imaginary universe.


From the above definitions, we especially retain the notion of things both precious and sacred. British-Ghanaian artist Larry Achiampong associates relics with oral history, attaching them primarily to the human experience, rather than with more tangible vestiges of ancient beliefs. Through their listening powers and goodwill toward their ancestors, his relic travellers collect invaluable testimony. In the artist’s eyes, the future of humanity depends on our ability to recognize the errors of the past and learn lessons of humility and respect.


The explorer/travellers present in Larry Achiampong’s futuristic world are characterized by a duty of seeking and listening. Unlike typical colonial-era explorers, they are driven and guided by a deep desire to connect with their ancestors. As defenders of freedom, justice, and equality, they strive for personal and universal fulfillment by giving voice to stories forgotten, oppressed, and erased.

Définitions7 2

Science fiction not only inspires Achiampong to create patterns and figures such as that of the traveller/explorer, it also enables him to imagine another “possible.” He tells of how anticipated changes will impact future worlds, depicting a Pan-African collective of 54 countries that pool resources and cultures to enhance their common prosperity. How will individuals and groups renegotiate and renew the terms of their coexistence within this broader ensemble? What alliances will they form? What principles will they embrace or reject? What relics will be found there, and how will they symbolize the future?


Science fiction allows artists to redesign national boundaries and divide and occupy the territory in new ways that celebrate different values and foster restorative relationships. In Achiampong’s work, the juxtaposition of science fiction and nation allows us to reassess certain principles underpinning contemporary national constructs, while at the same time fostering a critical look at their rigidity, close-mindedness, inflexibility, and the violence they spawn.

Definitions adapted or drawn from the Larousse, Merriam-Webster, and Cambridge English dictionaries and Wikipedia.


Movements: Larry Achiampong + Jamilah Sabur is a tool designed by the PHI Foundation’s Department of Education to encourage visitors to develop and elaborate on some key concepts of the exhibitions Larry Achiampong: Relic Traveller and Jamilah Sabur: The Mountain Sings Underwater.


Daniel Fiset
Daniel Fiset is a cultural worker based in Tiohtiá:ke/Mooniyang/Montreal. Holding a Ph.D. in art history from Université de Montréal, he has collaborated with numerous Quebec and Canadian institutions in the field of visual arts, including OPTICA, esse arts + opinions and the Musée d'art contemporain des Laurentides. He is currently the adjunct curator for engagement at the PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art, and curated the 2021 PHI MONTRÉAL exhibition.

Kim Johnson
Kim Johnson is an educator and project manager at the PHI Foundation. She completed a bachelor’s degree in Art Education at Concordia University in 2016. Kim is involved in the democratization of visual art through her educational and artistic projects within various community centres and cultural institutions in Montréal, including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, as a cultural mediator. As a visual artist, she draws her inspiration from human connections, the feminine and nature. Kim is particularly fond of painting and linocut.


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