Isaac Julien on Beauty, Art, Money, and Mentoring
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.
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.”
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