The work of Isaac Julien moves through liminal spaces. Overlapping zones between photography, film, and installation; choreography and dance; poetry and music… and the infinite possible versions, iterations, and variations that can emerge from systematic work with the archive. Intersections in which fiction, documentary, narrative, and radicality converge to produce aesthetically meticulous and politically powerful imaginaries and stories that challenge white heterosexual film conventions through their temporalities, narrative construction, and aesthetic forms.
The son of Caribbean immigrants, Isaac Julien was born in London in 1960. He was a key figure in the new wave of black independent film that emerged in the United Kingdom in the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher was in power. He co-founded the Sankofa Film and Video Collective, which was influenced by debate on post-colonialism and social theorists such as Homi Bhabha and Stuart Hall.
In his films and installations, Isaac Julien constructs a personal imaginary of black history and culture, as well as queer blackness. Through works like “Looking for Langston” (1989), “Young Soul Rebels” (1991), “Frantz Fanon: White Skin Black Mask” (1996), and “Lesson of the Hour” (2019), amongst others, he has developed what he calls an “aesthetics of reparation”. His work also casts a critical eye on the impact of globalisation, capital, migrations, and new forms of work in our world today.
In this podcast, Isaac Julien talks about the need to give a voice and body to dissident black identity and desire in the cinematic imaginary, as a means of dismantling the hegemonising whiteness. He also discusses his constant shifts between the worlds of art, video art, and film, expressed in media such as, through expanded cinema, choreographic montage, multiple screens, the movement of spectators and by breaking the flow of narrative and time. He talks about his working process based on constant revisions, with and thanks to the archive. And he confesses his mistrust of the promise of the radical nature of new technologies, while suggesting other ways of looking, with pleasure and beauty always at the centre.