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LectureHop: Words, Words, Words

Thursday evening, the World Leaders Forum hosted its second-ever artist for a lecture. Issac Julien, famous in the art-world for his unique films and installations, gave a talk about his work and the mediums through which he expresses himself. Art School Dropout Briana Last eagerly sat through Julien’s musings and provides you with this latest LectureHop.

For a few Columbians, the excitement of Thursday night stemmed from their eagerness to make the trek to Miller Theatre to hear Isaac Julien discuss his most recent installations and the messages he hopes to get across through various media.

Installation artist, filmmaker, and Mellon Visiting Artist & Thinker at the School of the Arts, Julien is only the second artist to have been invited to a World Leader’s Forum (the first was invited to speak at last year’s Forum). He described this as significant, as “artists are also interested in looking at these questions of how the world comes to this point.”

Julien is known for his breaking down of artistic and cultural barriers. He uses film, dance, photography, music, theatre, painting, and sculpture to tell his stories. At the same time, he utilizes unexplored images, language, and myths—fiction and nonfiction—to describe events.

Miller Theatre was far from full when Julien began speaking, and audience members began to file out as the artist waxed poetic about his own work in an often overly verbose and intellectual manner. Despite what sometimes came across as trying and heady attempts to make sense of his artwork, the pieces he displayed were ultimately moving anyway for their aesthetic beauty and the messages they conveyed.

The audience had the opportunity to watch excerpts from his installations “Western Union: Small Boats” and his most recent “TEN THOUSAND WAVES”. Both pieces focused on who “gets lost in globalization” and the untranslatability of languages on a deeper narrative level.

It was clear that Julien thinks carefully about his work, perhaps a bit too carefully for the audience members who took early leave. But his exploration of using entirely different “ethnographic frames” to understand the world and the role of aesthetics, “to move beyond the expediency of news,” as he called it, is innovative and fresh, and was a welcome addition to the typical Thursday night.

Julien via Wikimedia Commons

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