Isaac Julien is a filmmaker and installation artist whose work investigates a range of issues, from black and gay identity, desire and sexuality to cultural displacement and global financial crisis. His video installations are usually displayed across multiple screens and accompanied by still photographs, conveying a sense of fragmented narratives and reflecting on the ideas of memory and remembrance.
Julien’s films have been shown in several exhibitions organised in partnership with Iniva, including ‘Mirage: Enigmas of Race, Difference and Desire,’ at ICA in 1995 and the major touring exhibition ‘Rhapsodies in Black: The Art of the Harlem Renaissance,’ 1997, which featured his award-winning breakthrough film Looking for Langston, 1989. The poetic black and white documentary, screened at Tate Britain in 2016 as part of the three-day conference ‘Now & Then, Here & There: Black Artists and Modernism,’ explores the life of Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes. It combines archival footage with fantasy sequences and an imagined love story, resulting in a multi-layered narrative about artistic expression and the nature of Black gay desire.
Julien was born in East London to immigrant parents from St Lucia. He graduated with a First Class BA in Fine Art Film from Central Saint Martins, London, later continuing post-doctoral studies at Les Entrepreneurs de L’Audiovisuel Europeen (EAVE) in Brussels. He has exhibited widely both in the UK and abroad, including the major touring exhibition ‘The Place is Here’ in 2017. Among his many awards are: Semaine de la Critique Prize for Young Soul Rebels at the Cannes Film Festival in 1991; Pratt and Whitney Canada Grand Prize at the 15th International Festival of Films on Art in 1997 for Frantz Fanon, Black Skin White Mask and Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival, 2014. Julien was also shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2001 and appointed CBE for services to the arts in 2017.
In addition to his career as an artist, he is Professor of Media Art at Staatliche Hochschule fur Gestaltung in Karlsruhe, Professor of Global Art at University of the Arts, London and Regents Professor at University of California, Berkley.
Julien lives and works in London.