If you’re not at all familiar with the work of black British artist (including filmmaker) Isaac Julien, here’s your chance to get familiar (if you live in New York anyway).
We’ve highlighted some of his films here on S&A – notably his allegorical snapshot of late 1970s London, 1991’s Young Soul Rebels, which co-starred a young Sophie Okonedo, and was awarded the Semaine de la Critique prize at the Cannes Film Festival the same year. And there was the poetic 1989 documentary Looking For Langston – an exploration of the life and times of late African American poet Langston Hughes, delving into the world in which he thrived, fusing together archival footage, a jazz soundtrack and scripted scenes, to examine homosexuality and black gay identity during the Harlem Renaissance.
Typically, Julien’s films relate experiences of black and gay identity, combining both visual and performing arts elements to create strong narratives.
He founded the Sankofa Film and Video Collective, and was a founding member of Normal Films in 1991. He was a visiting professor at the Whitney Museum of American Arts, and most recently, he’s had solo shows at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, the Pompidou Centre in Paris, MoCA Miami and the Kerstner Gesellschaft, Hanover.
Starting Monday this week, November 25, 2013, and running through February 17, 2014, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) here in NYC, will house Julien’s film installation project, titled Ten Thousand Waves – described as an immersive cinema experience projected onto nine double-sided screens, which was created over a 4-year period, and reflects the movement of people across continents, as audiences move freely around the Marron Atrium, where the installation resides, with the ability to watch from whatever vantage points they choose.
More details from a MoMA press release below:
Julien poetically interweaves contemporary Chinese culture with its ancient myths—including the fable of the goddess Mazu (played by Maggie Cheung), which comes from the Fujian Province, from where the Morecambe Bay workers originated. In one section, the Tale of Yishan Island, Julien recounts the story of 16th-century fishermen lost and imperiled at sea. Central to the legend is the sea goddess figure who leads the fishermen to safety. In a preceding section, shot at the Shanghai Film Studios, actress Zhao Tao takes part in a re-enactment of the classic 1930s Chinese film The Goddess. Additional collaborators include calligrapher Gong Fagen, the film and video artist Yang Fudong, cinematographer Zhao Xiaoshi and poet Wang Ping from whom Julien commissioned “Small Boats”, a poem that is recited in Ten Thousand Waves.
The installation is staged on the streets of both modern and old Shanghai, and includes music and sounds that fuse Eastern and Western traditions. The installation’s sound structure is as immersive as its sequenced images, with contributions from, among others, London-based musician Jah Wobble and the Chinese Dub Orchestra, and an original score by Spanish contemporary classical composer Maria de Alvear.
Organized by Sabine Breitwieser, former Chief Curator (until January 31, 2013), with Martin Hartung, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance Art.
Here’s a look at the installation, although it’s best experienced live, and in person, as it’s meant to be: