Isaac Julien is an artist and filmmaker represented in museum and private collections throughout the world, including Tate, MoMA, the Government Art Collection, Centre Pompidou, the Guggenheim Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and the Brandhorst Museum.
Isaac Julien studied painting and fine art film at St Martin's School of Art, graduating in 1984. He founded Sankofa Film and Video Collective (1983 – 1992) and was a founding member of Normal Films in 1991.
In 1997 Julien received the Pratt and Whitney Canada Grand Prize at the 15th International Festival of Films on Art for 'Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask' (1996). The film uses interviews, reconstructions and archive footage to tell the story of the life and work of the highly influential anti-colonialist writer Frantz Fanon.
In 2005 Julien had a solo exhibition at the Pompidou Centre in Paris in which he showed his work, 'Fantôme Afrique'.
'Fantôme Afrique' weaves cinematic and architectural references through the rich imagery of urban Ouagadougou, the centre for cinema in Africa, and the arid spaces of rural Burkina Faso, and is punctuated by archival footage from early colonial expeditions and landmark moments in African history. Renowned choreographer and dancer Stephen Galloway (Ballet Frankfurt) and actor Vanessa Myrie ('Baltimore') figure as ‘trickster/phantom’ and ‘witness’ in this carefully composed meditation on the denationalised, de-territorialised spaces born of the encounters between local and global cultures, where the ghosts of history linger amid the realities of the day.
Julien’s multi-screen installation work, 'WESTERN UNION: Small Boats' premiered at Metro Pictures, New York in autumn 2007, and he presented a live multi-screen performance work, 'Cast No Shadow', at Sadler’s Wells, London and BAM, New York (Peforma 07).
'WESTERN UNION: small boats' concerns journeys made across the seas of the Mediterranean. The journeys and stories of so-called “clandestines” who leave Libya to escape wars and famines, bearing witness to modernity’s failed hopes and dreams. The work explores the travels of these people across oceanic spaces, some never to arrive or return.
A catalogue accompanying the piece, 'WESTERN UNION: small boats' was published in 2009 to coincide with its exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw and is distributed by Koenig Books.
Isaac Julien has recently completed his new film installation TEN THOUSAND WAVES which is to receive its world premiere at the Sydney Biennale in May, followed by its Chinese premiere in Shanghai to coincide with Expo 2010 and its UK premiere at the Hayward Gallery, London in October.
TEN THOUSAND WAVES is a 9-screen audiovisual installation shot on location in China. The work poetically weaves together stories linking China’s ancient past and present. Through an architectural installation, the work explores the movement of people across countries and continents and meditates on unfinished journeys.
Julien is represented in museum and private collections throughout the world, including Tate, MoMA, the Government Art Collection, Centre Pompidou, the Guggenheim Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and the Brandhorst Museum.