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Isaac Julien

Artist 94 Isaac Julien Installation and Film The Leopard

Isaac Julien was born in 1960 London. He is currently based and is an installation artist and filmmaker. Born to Caribbean immigrant parents, Isaac Julien has crafted a singular and expansive body of work that moves effortlessly between experimental film and narrative cinema, theatrical exhibition and video installation.

With characteristic formal beauty and critical depth, The Leopard (Western Union: Small Boats) synthesizes Julien’s longstanding examination of Black diasporic and postcolonial experience in a moving and humanistic 20-minute work. This video work is the focus of today’s post.

The video work is part of an ongoing exploration of sea passage and transnational crossings the artist calls the Expedition series.

One of the objectives of Julien's work is to break down the barriers that exist between different artistic disciplines, drawing from and commenting on film, dance, photography, music, theatre, painting and sculpture, and uniting these to construct a powerfully visual narrative.

Thematically, much of his work directly relates to experiences of black and gay identity (he is himself gay),including issues of class, sexuality, and artistic and cultural history.

He was part of the Diaspora Pavilion in 2017 at the the 57th Venice Biennale. It is conceived as a challenge to the prevalence of national pavilions within the structure of an international biennale and takes its form from the coming-together of nineteen artists whose practices in many ways expand, complicate and even destabilise diaspora as term, whilst highlighting the continued relevance that diaspora as a lived reality holds today.

The Leopard juxtaposes all-too-familiar images of Mediterranean passage–Black bodies crowded in rafts, laid out in reflective blankets on Italian shores, drowning in tempestuous waters–with the tranquil spaces of European tourism and luxury. The Leopard (Western Union: Small Boats) challenges viewers to contemplate the inequities of globalization and the cycles of displacement and violence that have bound Europe and Africa for centuries.


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