Isaac Julien featured in Frieze

Isaac Julien is featured in Frieze Magazine, an interview by Deborah Willis and Isaac Julien in Interviews Opionion | 22 March 2023

Ahead of his major exhibition at Tate Britain, the artist considers how his films will exist in the future

Deborah Willis When I first met you, in the late 1980s, you were working on the film Looking for Langston (1989), in which you explored the story of the African American poet Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and ’30s. Can you talk about what inspired you to investigate memory in your practice – to see what was missing or erased or undiscovered in the archives and to develop new narratives around it?

Isaac Julien My investigation into the ways in which there were so many absences and erasures in archives led me to view them as a springboard for reinvention. When I started to look at works from the 1920s and ’30s, it was a revelation to discover that I had never been taught about the Harlem Renaissance as a Black arts movement in any of my art history classes.”

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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.