Isaac Julien: To the end of the Earth
Galerie Forsblom Stockholm
November 9–December 21, 2018
Opening in the presence of the artist, November 8, 5–7pm
Internationally acclaimed filmmaker and installation artist Isaac Julien, makes multi-screen film installations and photographs that incorporate different artistic disciplines to create a poetic and unique visual language. The exhibition To the end of the Earth explores themes of voyage across continents. From Italy, to China, to Iceland, the artworks presented at Galerie Forsblom meditate on journeys, loss, separation, contemporary experiences of desire, and relationships between subjectiveness and the geopoetical in our global era. Displaying selected moving image and photographic works mounted into lightboxes created between 2007 to 2018, the focus of the exhibition is the five-screen installation of Julien’s highly acclaimed Western Union: small boats (2007).
Western Union: small boats is a work where individual voyages and movement of people are explored locally, while also alluding to the global scenario. Julien traces the effects of trauma, not just on people but also on architecture, monuments, and daily life, by relocating these trajectories in a poetic manner. In the first scene of the film, actress Vanessa Myrie walks towards and through an iron gate facing the sea. Sounds of the ocean are accompanied by the powerful voice of Malian singer Oumou Sangaré. The scene then cuts sharply to fishermen on their boats while in the background, we hear updates from English and Italian broadcasting news: “...have died during their journey”.
Shot in 2007 in the islands of Sicily and Lampedusa, Italy, Julien’s film installation depicts the picturesque fishermen village of Agrigento where thousands of refugees arrive each year to seek asylum. These images are counter posed with the grandeur of Palazzo Gangi, a famed location from Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti’s Il Gattopardo (The Leopard). In a poignant juxtaposition to the deadly voyage, performance sequences have been choreographed by Russell Maliphant, while echoing and rearticulating these dramatic voyages. Through the use of multiple screens and the interweaving of images, Western Union: small boats subverts strict narrative, creating a collage of sound and image, which blurs the boundaries of documentary and fiction.
A selection of two photographic works from Ten Thousand Waves (2010) series are also presented, illustrating Julien’s continuous interest and artistic engagement with the themes of human aspiration for a better life, movement of people across continents and globalization. Ten Thousand Waves seeks to reflect on the story of Chinese cockleshell pickers who drowned in England’s coast through the perspective of Mazu, the goddess of the sea and the fishermen.
Stones Against Diamonds (2015) is the final body of work presented in the exhibition. The work draws inspiration from a letter written by Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi where she praises the beauty of semi-precious gems over precious stones, such as diamonds. Vanessa Myrie, reappears, walking through the sublime scenery of an ice cave in the remote Vatnajökull region on Iceland. In this this new landscape, Julien reflects on how some of the most beautiful objects as the least precious in a conventional sense, especially depicted by the frailness of the ice that melts, representing climate change. Stones Against Diamonds brings back the themes of journey, the natural landscape and the exploration of the unknown, also seen in the previous works.
Isaac Julien was born in 1960 in London, where he currently lives and works. He studied film at Saint Martin’s School of Art in London, United Kingdom and conducted postdoctoral studies at the Entrepreneurs de L’Audiovisuel Europeen (EAVE) in Brussels, Belgium. He was nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize in 2001 and has received numerous art and film awards over the years. His works have been exhibited at galleries and museums worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) New York, NY, US, the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France, Kunsthalle, Helsinki, Finland, and Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden. Julien is represented in several museum collections, including the MoMA and the Solomon R. Guggenheim in New York, and the Tate Modern in London.