Isaac Julien

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Isaac Julien

Isaac Julien.jpg
Born (1960-02-21) 21 February 1960 (age 62)
East End of London, England
EducationCentral Saint Martins
OccupationInstallation artist and filmmaker
EmployerGoldsmiths, University of London

Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design

University of California, Santa Cruz
Known forLooking for Langston (1989)

Sir Isaac Julien CBE RA (born 21 February 1960[1]) is a British installation artist, filmmaker,[2] and distinguished professor of the arts at UC Santa Cruz.

Early life[edit]

Julien was born in the East End of London, one of the five children of his parents, who had migrated to Britain from St Lucia.[1] He graduated in 1985 from Saint Martin's School of Art, where he studied painting and fine art film. He co-founded Sankofa Film and Video Collective in 1983,[1] and was a founding member of Normal Films in 1991.


In 1980, Julien organised the Sankofa Film and Video Collective with Martina Attille, Maureen Blackwood, Nadine Marsh-Edwards, and Robert Crusz in response to the social unrest in Britain. Sankofa was "dedicated to developing an independent black film culture in the areas of production, exhibition and audience". He received a BA in fine-art film from Central Saint Martins School of Art, London (1984), where he worked alongside artists including Sandra Lahire, Malcolm Le Grice, Lis Rhodes, Vera Neubauer, Adam Finch, and Tina Keane, and completed his postdoctoral studies at Les entrepreneurs de l'audiovisuel européen, Brussels (1989).


Julien achieved prominence in the film world with his 1989 drama-documentary Looking for Langston, gaining a cult following with this poetic exploration of Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance. His following grew when his film Young Soul Rebels won the Semaine de la Critique prize for best film at the Cannes Film Festival in 1991.[3]

One of the objectives of Julien's work is to break down the barriers that exist between different artistic disciplines, drawing from and commenting on film, dance, photography, music, theatre, painting and sculpture, and uniting these to construct a powerfully visual narrative. Thematically, much of his work directly relates to experiences of black and gay identity (he is himself gay),[2] including issues of class, sexuality, and artistic and cultural history. He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2001, and in 2003 he won the Grand Jury Prize at the Kunstfilm Biennale in Cologne for his single screen version of Baltimore. Julien is also a documentary filmmaker – his work in this genre includes BaadAsssss Cinema, a film on the history and influence of blaxploitation cinema.

Julien was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2017 Birthday Honours for services to the arts[4] and was knighted in the 2022 Birthday Honours for services to diversity and inclusion in art.[5]

Julien was elected a Royal Academician in 2017.[6]


Julien readily cites cultural theorist and sociologist Stuart Hall as an important influence on his filmmaking. Hall narrates a portion of Looking for Langston. Julien involves Hall in his work once more in the 1996 film Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask,[7] which tells the story of Frantz Fanon, the theorist and psychiatrist from Martinique.[8] As a member of the Sankofa Film and Video Collective, Julien made The Passion of Remembrance (1986), "which attempts to deal with the difficulties of constructing a documentary history of black political experience by foregrounding questions of chauvinism and homophobia."[9]

Personal life[edit]

Julien currently divides his time, living and working in London, England and Santa Cruz, California.

He was a visiting lecturer at Harvard University's Departments of Afro-American and Visual Environmental Studies, and was a visiting seminar leader in the MFA Art Practice programme at the School of Visual Arts, and a visiting professor at the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York City. He was also a research fellow at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and in September 2009 he became a professor at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design. In 2018, Julien joined UC Santa Cruz where he is the distinguished professor of the arts.[10] Julien is a patron of the Live Art Development Agency.[11]

Selected bibliography[edit]

Installation pieces[edit]

Playtime at the De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art in the Netherlands
  • Vagabondia (2000)
  • Paradise Omeros (2002)
  • Baltimore (2003)
  • Lost Boundaries (2003)
  • Radioactive (2004)
  • True North (2004)
  • Fantôme Afrique (2005)
  • Fantôme Créole (2005)
  • WESTERN UNION: Small Boats (2007)
  • Dungeness (2008)* Te Tonga Tuturu/True South (Apparatus) (2009)
  • PLAYTIME (2013)
  • A Marvellous Entanglement (2019)


  • Who Killed Colin Roach? (1983)
  • Territories (1984)
  • The Passion of Remembrance (1986)
  • This is Not an AIDS Advertisement (1987)
  • Looking for Langston (1989)
  • Young Soul Rebels (1991)
  • Black and White in Colour (1992)
  • The Attendant (1992)
  • Darker Side of Black (1993)
  • The Question of Equality (senior producer) (1994)
  • Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask (1996)
  • Three (1999)
  • The Long Road to Mazatlan (1999)
  • Paradise Omeros (2002)
  • BaadAsssss Cinema (2002)
  • Baltimore (2003)
  • Derek (2008)
  • Ten Thousand Waves (2010)
  • Kapital (2013)
  • Playtime (2014)
  • Stones Against Diamonds (2015)
  • Lessons of the hour (2019)



  1. ^ a b c Annette Kuhn, "Julien, Isaac (1960–)", BFI Screen Online.
  2. ^ a b Rich, B. Ruby (14 May 2002). "Still a soul rebel: the work of Young Soul Rebels director Isaac Julien, from his films to his video installations, is honored with a retrospective". The Advocate. Archived from the original on 12 February 2007. Retrieved 1 April 2007.
  3. ^ "Artworks". Isaac Julien. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  4. ^ "No. 61962". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 June 2017. p. B9.
  5. ^ "No. 63714". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 June 2022. p. B2.
  6. ^ "Isaac Julien – Artist". London: Royal Academy of Arts.
  7. ^ Weston, K. (January 2018). "Frantz Fanon: Black Skin White Mask". Sight & Sound. 28 (1): 100–103 – via International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance.
  8. ^ Julien, Isaac (June 2015). "Muse: Stuart Hall". Art in America (June/July Issue): 48–49. Archived from the original on 3 June 2015. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
  9. ^ Shail, Robert. (2007). British film directors : a critical guide. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 9780748629688. OCLC 430823389.
  10. ^ Hernandez-Jason, Scott (25 September 2018). "New faculty to advance campus teaching, research". UC Santa Cruz News. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 October 2011. Retrieved 9 February 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ Sinanovic, Jasmina (24 September 2013). "Isaac Julien to Deliver the 2004 Kessler Lecture, December 10 – CLAGS: Center for LGBTQ Studies". Retrieved 15 May 2022.
  13. ^ "Isaac Julien to deliver the James R. Brunder '83 Memorial Prize Lectures | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies". September 2016. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  14. ^ "Goslarer Kaiserring 2022 geht an Isaac Julien". (in German). 1 February 2022. Retrieved 2 February 2022.

Further reading[edit]

Also published in: "The Other Cinema, The Cinema of the Other", UNOPress, Napoli.

External links[edit]