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Isaac Julien at De Pont Museum

  • De Pont Museum
January 19, 2015
Passionate about art, frequent visitor of exhibitions, Widewalls photography specialist and Editor-in-Chief.

It is hard, if not impossible, to talk about video art without mentioning the name of Isaac Julien, the renowned installation artist and filmmaker. Playtime, his latest work, will be the centerpiece at a new solo exhibition at De Pond Museum. Providing a view of his thirty years of career will be a group of eight films, including Ten Thousand Waves from 2010, as well as a selection of large photographs, independent works of art connected to the films.

De Pont Museum
Isaac Julien – Midnight Sun, 2013

The Art of Videos

From the very beginnings in the early 1960s, art in the form of videos evolved and changed, starting to occupy more and more space within the walls of museums and galleries. With the development of equipment and the introduction of new visual and narrative forms throughout the years, grainy colorless video frames gave way to vivid, high definition, striking imagery, enhancing the artistic expression. Looking to tell a story about the rocky world of art, there’s Isaac Julien’s Playtime, a multi-screen installation exploring the relationship with the global financial crisis and contemporary art.

De Pont Museum
Isaac Julien – Green Screen Goddess (Ten Thousand Waves), 2010


Tackling the genres of both documentary and fiction, the film revolves around six main characters – the Artist, the Hedge Fund Manager, the Auctioneer, the House Worker, the Art Dealer, and the Reporter. These figures, based on real people and Julien’s own experience, describe the connection between art and finance and are played by famous actors, such as James Franco and Maggie Cheung. The film also sees a special appearance by a Swiss art collector and auctioneer Simon de Pury, who plays himself. Set in three major cities – Dubai, London and Reykjavik, this visual spectacle explores the dynamics of the capital market and criticizes the impact it has on everyday lives. Initially, Playtime was installed in New York at Metro Pictures Gallery on a single large screen projection. Simultaneously, a three-minute cutdown version of the film was playing on 17 electronic billboards in Times Square, every night during the month of December in 2013.

De Pont Museum
Isaac Julien – Western Union Series no. 8 (Sculpture for the New Millennium), 2007, detail

The Art of Isaac Julien

The critical attitude of this work can be found in all Julien’s oeuvre. Over the years, the aim of his art was to expose various social issues, including class, ethnic origins, sexual orientation and gender, as well as the economy and capitalism. It often mentions and pays tribute to other films and filmmakers and it combines film images with historical film material and images from the media, exploring traditional genres such as the documentary and the motion picture. Julien was nominated for Turner Prize in 2001. He was visiting lecturer at Harvard University’s Schools of Afro-American and Visual Environmental Studies, and is currently a visiting professor at the Whitney Museum of American Arts. He produced over 15 films and 13 installation pieces. Catch Isaac Julien: RIOT at De Pont Museum in Tilburg, The Netherlands, from January 31st until May 31st 2015.

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Images courtesy of De Pont Museum.