Galerie Ron Mandos is very proud to present Better Life (Ten Thousand Waves) by Isaac Julien (UK, 1960). A photographic series together with the nine screen installation that poetically weave together stories linking China’s ancient past and present. Through an architectural installation and a series of photographs the work explores the movement of people across countries and continents and meditates on unfinished journeys. The exhibition is from 8 September until 20 October, 2012.

Conceived and made over four years, Ten Thousand Waves sees Julien collaborating with some of China’s leading artistic voices, including: the legendary siren of Chinese cinema Maggie Cheung; rising star of Chinese film Zhao Tao; poet Wang Ping; master calligrapher Gong Fagen; artist Yang Fudong; acclaimed cinematographer Zhao Xiaoshi; and a 100-strong Chinese cast and crew. The film’s original musical score is by fellow East Londoner Jah Wobble and The Chinese Dub Orchestra and contemporary classical composer Maria de Alvear.


Filmed and shot on location in the ravishing and remote Guangxi province and at the famous Shanghai Film Studios and various sites around Shanghai, Ten Thousand Waves combines fact, fiction and film essay genres against a background of Chinese history, legend and landscape to create a meditation on global human migrations. Through formal experimentation and a series of unique collaborations, Julien seeks to engage with Chinese culture through contemporary events, ancient myths and artistic practice.

The Leopard

Isaac Julien’s The Leopard is an exclusive single-screen reworking of his celebrated 2007 installation Western Union: Small Boats.

This film takes its title and visual starting point from Visconti’s masterpiece The Leopard, looking at a cinematic afterlife, haunted by characters from other places and other films. Vanessa Myrie wanders lost through the rooms of Visconti’s palazzo. the interiors, once opulent and luxurious, are now abandoned, echoing with the ghosts of decadence and grandeur and resonant with the new Sicilian history of migration.

Exploring similar themes of voyages, excursions and expeditions to the Ten Thousand Waves project, Isaac Julien’s 2007 multi-screen installation Western Union: small boats was produced at a time of debate about immigration policies and the relations between the individual and the geopolitical. The Leopard is a newly edited cinema version of the work that seeks to re-engage with these ongoing issues, humanising and lending poetic qualities, image and voice once again to questions, which so often get lost amidst the noise of political agendas.
Internationally renowned choreographer Russell Maliphant has choreographed a series of vignettes in several locations, utilising dance and the movement of bodies, echoing these journeys but also rearticulating them.

ABOUT Isaac Julien

Sir Isaac Julien KBE RA (GB, 1960), a London-born filmmaker and installation artist, is celebrated for his groundbreaking approach to art, seamlessly merging film, dance, photography, music, theater, painting, and sculpture to craft compelling visual narratives through multi-screen film installations. Notably, his 1989 documentary-drama “Looking for Langston” and the Cannes Film Festival Semaine de la Critique prize-winning debut feature, “Young Soul Rebels” (1991), garnered critical acclaim on a global scale.

Julien’s international acclaim extends to prestigious solo exhibitions at prominent venues, including the Barnes Foundation, Smith College Museum of Art, and Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. His works have graced the walls of renowned institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.

In addition to his artistic pursuits, Julien has made significant contributions to academia, holding key positions at institutions like the University of Arts London and Staatliche Hoscschule fur Gestaltung, Karlsruhe. His educational efforts were further recognized when he was awarded the James Robert Brudner ’83 Memorial Prize and delivered lectures at Yale University in 2016.

Isaac Julien’s dedication to the arts has earned him distinguished accolades, including The Royal Academy of Arts Charles Wollaston Award in 2017 and a knighthood as part of Queen Elizabeth II’s Honours List in 2022. Furthermore, he was honored with the esteemed Kaiserring Goslar Award in 2022.

In April 2023, Tate Britain hosted a comprehensive survey show, presenting Isaac Julien’s illustrious career. This exhibition featured works spanning four decades, encompassing early films and expansive multi-screen installations that delve into the themes of global movement and history. It marked the first-ever presentation of Isaac Julien’s extensive body of work in the United Kingdom. Following its showcase at Tate Britain, the exhibition traveled to K21 in Düsseldorf, with its next destination set to be Bonnefanten in Maastricht, where it will be open for viewing from March 9 onwards.