Isaac Julien: Western Union – small boats

ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, Aarhus, Denmark
03 Feb 2018 - 27 May 2018

Isaac Julien. Western Union Series no. 1 (Cast No Shadow), 2007. Duratrans image in lightbox. 120 x 120 cm. 47.28 x 47.28 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro, London

The acclaimed British visual artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien opens the first exhibition presented by ARoS in a new series shown in the Focus Gallery in 2018. The series is called Intermezzo and shows art where the perception and appreciation of the works of art is facilitated via other faculties beside vision.

‘With Intermezzo, we want to open up horizons and boost the senses. The artists in this series, for example, work with sensory space’, says Erlend G. Høyersten, museum director, ARoS.

Enclosed in a totally blue room, Isaac Julien presents his three screen film installation Western Union: small boats from 2007. This work has won numerous awards, including the Charles Wollaston Award and portrays the refugee crisis unfolding in Europe in recent years where especially the southern Italian island of Lampedusa has become known as a reception centre for refugees. Due to its sheer beauty, the island has been also a popular destination for tourists.

Although the work was created over ten years ago, the issues raised by it are still as pertinent today and no less pressing than they were in 2007, says Lise Pennington, chief curator at ARoS, who also curates the exhibition.

Isaac Julien goes through a rigorous research phase lasting several years before embarking on the production of his film works. Once he starts, he ’saves’ his immense knowledge via the seductive film medium. It takes time before viewers discover the historical awareness, documentary elements, and political edge contained in his works. This is partly because Isaac Julien’s aesthetics is utterly enchanting. The pictures are filled with seductive magic resulting in viewers being mesmerised by the horror lurking beneath beauty. The tragedy portrayed imperceptibly takes hold of your sensory apparatus, the gravity suddenly hitting you and taking your breath away.

A catalogue will be published for the exhibition, featuring an introductory text by Lise Pennington, senior curator at ARoS, and a peer-reviewed text by Anne Ring Petersen, associate professor at the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen.


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