3 Isaac Julien interviews

QAGOMA (2011) Isaac Julien Brisbane Interview. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kkkIbXOs8Q (Accessed: 4/1/16)


  •  “…there’s a question which I’m posing which is really: where is Europe?” IJ.
  • “long, porous history between Africa and Europe”
  •  movement of people
  •  response to Visconti’s Leopard film
  • freedom of movement praised in internet age but that isn’t extended to movement of people
  • the question of architecture and painting, history painting
  • IJ references The Raft of The Medusa by John Louis Theodore Gericault – questions of journeying and movement
  • expanded cinema and more “architectural approach to making images”


Spike Channel Islands (2014) Isaac Julien Western Union Small Boats. Available at: https://youtu.be/y79qUovY37U (Accessed: 4/1/16)


  • Visconti’s Leopard is about the decline of the aristocratic classes
  • WUSB is about two journeys: one is a cinematic journey through the history of Italian cinema and the other is the journey of people from Africa to Europe. Dual narratives.
  • Part of a trilogy: due north, fantom afrique. The Expeditions Trilogy.
  • Uses same actors as in other films
  • Multiple perspectives
  • Multi-screen allows more architectural, spatial experience than traditional cinema
  • Globalization and the movement of the body through space – and difficulties


Julien I. (2009) ‘“I am putting the fire underneath people”. Isaac Julien in conversation with Katarzyna Bojarska’. Interview with Isaac Julien by Katarzyna Bojarska for OBIEG, 18 June. Available at: http://link.trueart.com/link_845.html (accessed 5/1/16)

  • “I think in my filming I am always looking at how landscape can transgress space. For example, thinking about those spatial relations in a slightly different configuration. So, in the case of True North, it is really this sort of looking for the spatial aspect of the sublime and how one can in a way contaminate that. And I think there is this questioning of the sublime inWESTERN UNION: small boats. A slightly more troubling sublime and how one can put these things together in the same frame.”–what does he mean by how landscape can transgress space?
  • “If I am interested in beauty, I am interested in a troubling one. I am not making a work because I want it to be beautiful. I am applying the technique of cinema to video art and my work is not only about the subject matter at hand, it is also about, at least, three things. In the case of WESTERN UNION: small boats, it is a conversation with Visconti, it is looking at Sicilian landscape and these spaces which belong to a cinematic history and it is saying: well what about these spaces being occupied by different sorts of bodies doing different sorts of things? How about looking at these broken boats as graveyard as a subject for art. In a way this is a contaminated sublime. I hope!” (emphasis my own)
  • separation of aesthetics and real life/trauma “So the question is: why do you want them to be separated? If you go on a vacation, or beach holiday, the whole problem is that you may find your holiday interrupted by this sort of event.”–this reminds me of the Daily Mail headlines about british holidaymakers having their vacations spoilt by refugees arriving.
  • combines trauma and aesthetics/beauty as a provocation
  • “The work is also a critique of what I see as a kind of rather narrow repertoire of representation strategies for visualising this subject. I have always been attracted to the idea of transgressing the boundaries, of utilising these contradictory aesthetic approaches with certain subject matter. I think that is just as political as the subject matter itself.” documentary is thought of as the appropriate genre for dealing with certain ‘issues’ and Isaac Julien questions this/argues that the documentary format is so generic that it doesn’t resonate with people/challenge them. i.e we have become desensitised perhaps by the documentary form…? what Warhol said when he made his electric chair/car crash/suicide pieces etc. The documentary is too formulaic- Julien works without a script/improvises – is more challenging to the viewer.

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