Isaac Julien – ‘I’m Interested in Poetry’ | TateShots


If someone was to approach me and to ask me what is my work about I would say that I’m a poet, that I’m interested in poetry and in my work it’s very much a sort of
poetic quest for a language to express experiences which are part of the
everyday experience of people like myself Dance, theater, music, sculpture, painting,
all of these different modes of art-making are encapsulated into my
practice which is why I chose film as a medium for making my work One of the things which I’ve been
involved in at the studio is working on my archive and that entails us going
back to early works and trying to think about way of reconnecting them to the
present ‘Looking For Langston’ is a poetic documentary and meditation on a poet of the High Renaissance called Langston Hughes. He
was one of the most important poets writing at that particular time last. “Langston Hughes wrote that the ordinary Negro hadn’t heard of the Renaissance and if
they had it hadn’t raised their wages” The work was really in conversation with
a lot of the excitement around black independent film and queer cinema. It was very much an artistic statement around black gay desire. And to transgress the
way one was being viewed and seen A work that is nearly 30 years old comes
kind of into its time in this new time where we’re really gone back to
revisiting questions around Black Lives Matter, around the notion of black queer
visibility. We can say that some of these things have become both mainstreamed and at the same time there’s a lot of antagonism it is very timely to make a work
like ‘Looking For Langston’ become visible to a new generation One of the themes of which people tend
to look at my work is questions around Black identity and diaspora. But behind the
love of my work is really an underlying theme which is the theme of capital and
labor and after the crash in 2008 I was very interested in making a work that
would somehow explore how that came about. “Pouring all over you and people
calling you greedy.” “What’s wrong with greed?” “Are there angels
that are going to run society without greed? Sadly not but we’ve got to keep
the wheels turning.” Capital itself is quite hard to film, it’s quite hard to
depict so one can only really depict it by its effects “And he sent me to Dubai
and it’s the beginning of my story” I’m someone who’s very interested in
global culture and that begins really my own biography, the fact my parents come
from the West Indies from Saint Lucia and I’ve always been involved in what I see
as a global conversation in my work One of the things for me in terms of
incorporating years of archive is how to articulate it, how to make it signify in
a different way from his original intentionality ‘Ten Thousand Waves’ looks at the more conveyed
tragedy which occurred in 2004 when over 23 Chinese cockle shell pickers died while
trying to eke out a living in the Lancashire coast and I was moved by this
event. I wanted to make a work that would bring attention to this tragedy that
occurred We see one lone survivor and it’s of
course surveillance infrared camera I was really trying to look at this
question of migration, a question that would literally rip Britain apart of
recent years we’ve witnessed It’s this relationship between the
political and the poetic which I’m trying to bring out One of the reasons why I’m very
interested in the archive and its articulation is really about trying to
get to grips with the idea of memory That memory is something which is not
part of the Black vernacular. It’s not recognised in the general culture. Thinking about questions of, say for example, black gay desire, it’s something that doesn’t
exist in the archive exempt through songs or maybe poems Utilising archive for me is very
much about trying to look at the ways in which one can think about the present by
looking at the past and it enables you to signify a future direction around
debates around aesthetics or questions of black identity which continually haunt the present

5 Replies to “Isaac Julien – ‘I’m Interested in Poetry’ | TateShots

  1. Tate, do you know about Ronan McKenzie? She takes photos on films and don't edit them. It'll be so nice to see an interview of her here, she's a London based photographer. She appeared on ID, and SHOWstudio. Please guys, I'm sure if we ask for her to come here it'll be as interesting as this (if Tate wants to). I don't know her personally and she's so great, I mean she's the kind of person who is so played back yet soooo talented!!! Please

    There's a ID video with Ronan Mckenzie talking about, she's a great photographer! it'll be amazing if she got featured here!! She's a huge influence and share realistic-type photography. She worked on fashion A-list shoots but she's really down to earth, she's very humble and created a fashion magazine she named "hard ears don't care" after a saying her mother used to say to her. She shared pictures of her on her blog "Londoners calling" and her family + friends. I didn't mention she wasn't from a wealthy background.

    On another note, definitely can see the poetry through his photographies, thanks for sharing this with us. In these moments I'm so happy to have subscribed to you xxx

  2. Will "Black" people continue to be haunted until they stop addressing themselves as "black".? Instead referring to themselves and others as people of African origin/ancestry. It is the term 'black' (originating in racism/segregation) that causes the haunting by, reinforcing ideas, beliefs and cultures set in division.

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