Born in London, UK, in 1960.
He lives and works in London.
Isaac Julien is a British artist and filmmaker who cofounded Sankofa Film and Video Collective in 1983. Its members belonged to a generation of young black filmmakers who were determined to share their experiences of British culture with a broad audience. Julien achieved widespread recognition after he directed Looking for Langston (1989), a lyrical film portrait of the Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes (1902–1967) that interwove Hughes’s work with that of other cultural icons. The multiscreen installations that Julien has produced since 1995 present fractured visual narratives that transcend disciplinary boundaries in a unique and poetic manner. Julien’s installation Playtime (2014) is set in three cities defined by their relationship to capitalism: London, one of the world’s most important financial centers; Reykjavik, Iceland, where the current global economic crisis began; and Dubai, whose skyscrapers stand as monuments to capital’s unchecked growth. This work combines documentary and fiction to comment on the relationship between financial markets and the art world.
At All the World’s Futures, Julien presents Kapital (2013), a two-screen installation centered on a conversation between the artist and the renowned American Marxist scholar David Harvey. The interview opens with Julien asking why capital is so hard to depict, to which Harvey replies that, as with gravity, one can “only intuit that capital exists by its effects.” The interview was part of the seminar Choreographing Capital, which Julien organized at London’s Hayward Gallery in 2012. Presented at the Biennale di Venezia in the form of an installation, the discussion offers a rare insight into the collaborative research method that underlies Julien’s body of work.
As part of his ongoing reflection on the dramatization of Capital Julien will be directing the live reading of the three volumes of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital (1867–1894) in the ARENA, which will be performed throughout the seven months of the Biennale by trained actors.