Media Arts Program

Thursday, March 16, 2017 at 8:00 p.m.


UB Dept. of English, UB Center for Global Media, UB Visual Studies PhD Program, UB Dept. of Media Study, & Hallwalls present

Three Multi-Channel (Re-Edited to Single-Channel) Film Works by Isaac Julien

This is the rescheduled screening that was originally planned for March 3.

Baltimore (2003), Playtime (2013), & The Leopard (2007/2017, single-channel edit of Western Union: Small Boats)

The Sankofa Film And Video Collective
Left to right: Martine Attille, Nadine Marsh-Edward, Maureen Blackwood,
and Isaac Julien, c. 1988-89
Courtesy the artists and Isaac Julien Studio Archive

from Western Union: Small Boats (a.k.a, The Leopard)
From Baltimore, triple-screen version. (We are showing it in re-edited single-channel form.)

From Playtime, detail of multi-channel installation form.(We are showing it in re-edited single-channel form.)

On May 25, 1988, just 28 years old, Isaac Julien visited Hallwalls as part of our series Young, British & Black to present his then recent films Territories (1985) and The Passion of Remembrance (1986, co-directed with Maureen Blackwood), along with his fellow Sankofa Film/Video Collective member Martine Attille, who presented the New York premiere of her film Dreaming Rivers (1988). Young, British & Black was a film series produced and presented by Hallwalls in partnership with Third World Newsreel in NYC, accompanied by a monograph edited by Coco Fusco.

Together, this series and publication—organized for Third World Newsreel by Fusco with Ada Gay Griffin and for Hallwalls by film curator Steve Gallagher—introduced the work of Sankofa and the allied Black Audio Film Collective to American audiences.

This spring semester, 2017, Isaac Julien, now one of the world's most celebrated contemporary visual artists in any medium, returns to Buffalo to teach a Master Class at UB and for a series of public events, including this screening in Hallwalls Cinema of works created for gallery installation, reformatted for cinema viewing.

Related events:

Thursday, January 26, 6:30pm, Albright Knox Art Gallery
Isaac Julien: Geopoetics: Choreographing the Moving Image
Julien will participate in a conversation with Jonathan D. Katz, Director of the Visual Studies PhD program at UB, to explore how he incorporates different artistic disciplines to create a unique poetic visual language and topography in audio-visual film installations.

March 9, 4:00–6:30pm, Center For the Arts 112, UB North Campus
Screening of films by Isaac Julien, WBFO Visiting Professor in the Arts: This is Not an AIDS Advertisement (1987); Looking For Langston (1989); Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask (1996). Post-screening discussion with Tanya Shilina-Conte (English), Jang Wook Huh (English), and Christine Varnado (Transnational Studies).

March 27, 6:30 pm, Drama Theatre, Center for the Arts, UB North Campus
Isaac Julien will screen the Master Class's final project, followed by a talk by Julien and students involved in the project. This event is co-sponsored by UB Center For the Arts and UB Dept. of Media Study, and is part of the latter's PLASMA Series of Monday evening artist's talks.

All events are FREE and open to the public.


As part of Isaac Julien's WBFO Visiting Scholar in the Arts residency at UB this Spring semester we are delighted to present three of his films for screening this evening: The Leopard/Western Union: Small Boats (2017/2007), Playtime (2013), and Baltimore (2003). Julien's multi-channel works are typically installed on multiple screens, but tonight we will screen single-channel re-edits.

Isaac's visit is generously funded through the WBFO Visiting Scholar in the Arts fund, and the Departments of Art and Media Study. This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Global Media, Department of English. Introduction by film scholar and PhD candidate in Visual Studies, Sarah JM Kolberg.

THE LEOPARD (2017 edit, known in its multichannel installation form as WESTERN UNION: Small Boats 2007 | 18 min | Colour | 35mm | DVD Transfer | Sound

WESTERN UNION: Small Boats (retitled The Leopard for this single-channel screening) forms the final installment of Julien’s compelling trilogy of audiovisual film installations which also includes True North (2004) and Fantôme Afrique (2005). The works explore the impact of location—both cultural and physical—to resounding effect through a juxtaposition of opposing global regions.

WESTERN UNION: Small Boats concerns journeys made across the seas of the Mediterranean. The journeys and stories of so-called “clandestines” who leave Libya, escaping wars and famines. They can be seen as economic migrant workers, along with certain Europeans—Angels of History in Walter Benjamin’s terms—who bear witness to modernity’s failed hopes and dreams, and who now travel across oceanic spaces some never to arrive or return.

Expanding the themes of voyages, excursions and expeditions, WESTERN UNION: Small Boats is being produced at a time when advances in global telecommunications and new technologies are continually celebrated. One of the major questions arising from this development is the part individuals may play in this flow of information. Questions surrounding the circulation of human lives, the movements of bodies, and their personal stories, are timely when immigration policies generate controversy on a daily basis, and the relationships between nations are the source of much debate.

Playtime 2014 | 69'47" | HD video installation | Colour | 7.1 surround sound

PLAYTIME is set across three cities defined by their role in relation to capital: London, a city transformed by the deregulation of the banks; Reykjavik, where the 2008 global financial crisis began; and Dubai, one of the Middle East's burgeoning financial markets. Part documentary and part fiction, the work follows six main protagonists—the Artist, the Hedge Fund Manager, the Auctioneer, the House Worker, the Art Dealer, and the Reporter—interconnecting figures in the world of art and finance with the real stories of individuals deeply affected by the crisis and the global flow of capital.

PLEASE NOTE: Originally a 9-channel gallery/museum installation, Playtime (like the shorter and newly retitled The Leopard) will be shown in the setting of Hallwalls Cinema in an hour-long single-channel format specially edited by Julien's studio.

Baltimore: 2003 | 11 min | Black & White / Colour | 16mm | DVD Transfer | Sound

Baltimore is rich in urban imagery and, like Julien's earlier pieces Vagabondia and Three, uses museums as a key location and theme.

Inspired by blaxploitation movies while he was filming his documentary Baadasssss Cinema, Julien appropriates the styles, gestures, language and iconography of the genre to create a work that defies easy categorization. Starring veteran black actor and director Melvin Van Peebles, Baltimore was designed in part as homage to Van Peebles's movies. It unites three Baltimore institutions—the Walters Art Museum, the Contemporary Museum, and the Great Blacks in Wax Museum—with blaxploitation cinema, the tough talking, hard-living symbol of black empowerment that Van Peebles helped usher in with his 1971 movie Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song.

Baltimore is ironic and funky, nostalgic and futuristic, rough and fine. It is characterized by oscillation and an insistent formal play with linear perspective which also pays homage to Piero della Francesca and more particularly, a painting of unknown authorship, c. 1500 known as "View of an Ideal City" which features in the collection of the Walters Art Museum.