Isaac Julien on Beauty, Art, Money, and Mentoring

“Ten Thousand Waves.” 2010. Nine-channel video installation (color, sound). 49:41 min. The Michael H. Dunn Memorial Fund. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo: Jonathan Muzikar.
“Ten Thousand Waves.” 2010. Nine-channel video installation (color, sound). 49:41 min. The Michael H. Dunn Memorial Fund. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo: Jonathan Muzikar.

 

In an interview with The New York Times yesterday, multi-media artist Isaac Julien mused about how financial speculation has turned art into commodity and the need to address it : “We need to  reflect what it is that we’re participating in. We need to look in a mirror and question what it is that we do… There shouldn’t be no-go areas in art.“ Julien’s recent film Playtime, a seven-screen installation that was inspired by the global financial crisis, will finish its run at London’s Victoria Miro Gallery on March 1. Julien cast the ubiquitous James Franco as an unctuous art dealer in what he describes as “both a critical and a comedic, satirical look at capital.” One segment features ex-Phillips auction house chairman Simon de Pury talking about how he collects superstitions, then cuts to the legendary auctioneer in an empty room “gesturing wildly and slamming his hammer for effect.”Julien’s dealer, Victoria Miro, apparently had no problem with the artist shooting some of the satirical scenes in her gallery, telling the Times: “It’s the artist’s role to be critical and to be reflective of  their own milieu.”

Julien, who grew up in an East London housing project, tells interviewer Farah Nayeri that art school, along with clubbing and fashion, represented a welcome escape after being harassed by schoolmates who picked up on the fact that he was homosexual early on.

Courtesy of the artist, Metro Pictures, New York and Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

Isaac Julien, Hotel (Ten Thousand Waves). (2010). Endura Ultra photograph I.
Photo: Courtesy of the artist, Metro Pictures, New York and Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

Another major work that just finished a high profile run at MoMA was the artist’s Ten Thousand Waves, a massive and powerful  film installation that occupied the museum atrium  for the past three months. The film is a meditation on a group of more than 20 Chinese cockle pickers who drowned on a British sandbank in 2004. Concurrent with the MoMA show, throughout December, excerts from Playtime replaced ads on screens throughout New York’s Times Square each night for the three minutes preceding midnight. Given all the recent exposure, it is somewhat surprising to hear MoMA’s chief curator of media and performance art, Stuart Comer, tell the Times: “I think people are still trying to place him. He will get his due, eventually.”

Isaac Julien, "Ten Thousand Waves."

Isaac Julien, Ten Thousand Waves. (2010). Nine-channel video installation (color, sound). 49:41 min. The Michael H. Dunn Memorial Fund. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Photo: Jonathan Muzikar.


Follow artnet News on Facebook:


Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.

Share