Renowned Filmmaker Isaac Julien Presents "Ten Thousand Waves" at JCU

Isaac Julien

Isaac Julien

The JCU Media and Communications Speaker Series welcomed internationally renowned filmmaker and video artist Isaac Julien, who presented one of his most recent works, Ten Thousand Waves, on October 27. The event was conducted as a conversation between Julien and curator and art/cultural critic Mark Nash, with whom Julien has worked extensively.

A key figure in the film and video workshop movement since the early 1980s, Julien produces works for cinema, television, and art galleries. He is currently a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome.

Both a film and art gallery project, Ten Thousand Waves is a nine-screen installation that links together stories from China’s ancient past and present and explores the movement of people across countries and continents.

Before the screening of his film, Isaac Julien briefly introduced himself and then went on to present an essay explaining the theories and concepts behind the work. He explained his initial inspiration for Ten Thousand Waves, which was the Morecambe Bay cockling disaster in 2004 where at least 21 Chinese migrant laborers drowned because of the incoming tide to which they were oblivious. Julien questioned what had driven them to travel so far from home, to harvest mussels on a dangerous beach with a tide that moved “faster than horses can run” and in so doing developed the work interrogating the nature of globalization, it’s time and spatial dimensions.

Following the screening, Isaac Julien and Mark Nash opened the floor for questions and discussion. Some of the issues raised were regarding the ability to produce politically charged work within the art establishment, the ability to finance ambitious projects like Ten Thousand Waves as well as the changed media landscape that brought a filmmaker like Julien to work in the realm of digital video installations and forego the work he had initially been associated with in the cinema with films such as Young Soul Rebels.