Isaac Julien, Western Union Series (The Leopard), 2007.
Isaac Julien’s groundbreaking 2007 video installation The Leopard (Western Union Small Boats) presents a lyrical and visceral meditation on histories of African migration. Combining exquisite cinematography with elements of documentary, dance and musical performance, The Leopard juxtaposes all-too-familiar images of Mediterranean passage–Black bodies crowded in rafts, laid out in reflective blankets on Italian shores, drowning in tempestuous waters–with the tranquil spaces of European tourism and luxury. Born in London in 1960 to Caribbean immigrant parents, Julien has crafted a singular and expansive body of work that moves effortlessly between experimental film and narrative cinema, theatrical exhibition and video installation. With characteristic formal beauty and critical depth, The Leopard (Western Union Small Boats) synthesizes Julien’s longstanding examination of Black diasporic and postcolonial experience in a moving and humanistic 20-minute work.
Presented in conjunction with the Block’s Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time exhibition, The Leopard (Western Union Small Boats) challenges viewers to contemplate the inequities of globalization and the cycles of displacement and violence that have bound Europe and Africa for centuries.
(Photo courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York © Isaac Julien.)