Isaac Julien‘s Ten Thousand Waves installation makes its US premier at the Bass Museum of Art in partnership with PUMA.Creative. The installation is an impressive portrait of the transitions occurring in life in the course of Chinese history. Fragmented narratives of monumental scale are presented in the most elaborate way. The aesthetic perfection of the iconic frames that compose the narrative imposes a poetic grief in the tragedy that accompanies the ever changing states of all those lives affected by migration.
Isaac Julien’s Ten Thousand Waves photographs are the photographic component of his nine-screen film installation of the same name. Julien’s large-scale photographs were produced while making the encompassing installation, and are meticulously staged in the dramatic settings constructed for the film. Photographed throughout rural and urban China, the series resulted from the artist’s deep immersion in the nation’s culture following the 2004 Morecambe Bay tragedy, in which 23 Chinese cockle-pickers died one evening in northwest England, drowned by the incoming tide.
The Chinese goddess Mazu, renowned for leading lost fishermen to safety and portrayed by Chinese screen icon Maggie Cheung, appears in many of the works in disparate places and times, mirroring the nonlinearity of Julien’s film. The artist worked extensively in the rural Guangxi province to produce many of the images, as well as at sites in Shanghai, from the legendary Shanghai Film Studio (where numerous classics of early Chinese cinema were made) to a skyscraper hotel room in the center of the rapidly changing city.
His resulting works constitute a mesmerizing hybrid form, a mixture of a travelogue, a kaleidoscopic portrait of Chinese history, and a filmic essay on contemporary networks of human and artistic migration.