ISAAC JULIEN at MoMA

Isaac Julien: Ten Thousand Waves

November 25, 2013–February 17, 2014

Ten Thousand Waves (2010) is an immersive film installation projected onto nine double-sided screens arranged in a dynamic structure. Especially conceived for The Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium, the installation choreographs visitors’ movement through the space. The original inspiration for this recently acquired, 55-minute moving image installation was the Morecambe Bay tragedy of 2004, in which more than 20 Chinese cockle pickers drowned on a flooded sandbank off the coast in northwest England.

Julien poetically interweaves contemporary Chinese culture with its ancient myths—including the fable of the goddess Mazu (portrayed in the piece 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 reenactment 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.

London-based Julien is an internationally acclaimed artist and filmmaker. After graduating from St. Martin’s School of Art in London in 1985, he came to prominence with his 1989 drama-documentary Looking for Langston, a poetic exploration of Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance. Informed by his film background, Julien’s gallery installations form fractured narratives that reflect critical thinking about race, globalization, and representation. In 2008 MoMA coproduced Julien’s film Derek(2008), a filmic biography of the late British filmmaker Derek Jarman.

Ten Thousand Waves was conceived and created over four years. In a reflection of the movement of people across continents, audiences move freely around the Marron Atrium, with the ability to watch from whichever vantage points they choose.

more info: http://bit.ly/1chHsRR

ABOUT Isaac Julien

Filmmaker and installation artist, Isaac Julien CBE RA, was born in 1960 in London, where he currently lives and works. His multi-screen film installations and photographs incorporate different artistic disciplines to create a poetic and unique visual language. His 1989 documentary-drama exploring author Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance titled Looking for Langston garnered Julien a cult following while his 1991 debut feature Young Soul Rebels won the Semaine de la Critique prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Having recently worked on conserving and restoring Looking for Langston images from his extensive archive, he exhibited of photographic works at Victoria Miro Gallery, London (2017), Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco (2016) and Ron Mandos Gallery, Amsterdam (2016) with a screening of the film in its original 16mm print at Tate Britain.

Julien’s solo exhibitions and presentations include Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA), Cape Town (2017); Platform-L Contemporary Art Centre, Seoul (2017); The Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (2017); Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (2016); MAC Niterói, Rio de Janeiro (2016); Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC), Mexico City (2016); De Pont Museum, Netherlands (2015); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013); Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago (2013); The Bass Museum, Miami (2010); Museum Brandhorst, Munich (2009); Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2005); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2005) and Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2005). His latest work, Stones Against Diamonds, was shown in 2015 as part of the Rolls-Royce Art Programme at the Venice Biennale, at Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach.

Julien participated in the Venice Biennale at the inaugural Diaspora Pavilion at the 57th edition in 2017 with Western Union: Small Boats. Previously, he presented Kapital and directed Das Kapital Oratorio in the 56th edition of the Venice Biennale, curated by Okwui Enwezor, in 2015. His work has also been exhibited in the 7th Gwangju Biennial, South Korea (2008); Prospect 1, New Orleans (2008); Performa 07, New York (2007) and in documenta 11, Kassel (2002).

Julien’s work is held in collections that include: Tate, London; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; the LUMA Foundation, Arles; the Kramlich Collection; the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art (Zeitz MOCAA), Cape Town. In 2016 the Towner Art Gallery Collection (Eastbourne, UK) acquired Ten Thousand Waves (2010) as part of a Moving Image Fund program. Ten Thousand Waves, a globally acclaimed multiple screen installation work, premiered at the 2010 Sydney Biennale and has gone on to be exhibited extensively – recently at Platform-L in Seoul (2017) and Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris (2016) as well as the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 2013, with whom he also published a comprehensive monographic survey of his life and work, titled ‘Riot’.

Julien has taught extensively, holding posts such as Chair of Global Art at University of Arts London (2014-2016) and Professor of Media Art at Staatliche Hoscschule fur Gestaltung, Karlsruhe, Germany (2008 – 2016). He is the recipient of the James Robert Brudner ‘83 Memorial Prize and Lectures at Yale University (2016). Most recently he received the Charles Wollaston Award (2017), for most distinguished work at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and in 2018, he was made a Royal Academician. Julien was awarded the title Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen’s birthday honours, 2017.

GO TO THE ARTIST PAGE