'Strata, Rocks, Dust & Stars' at York Art Gallery

York Art Gallery, UK
28 September - 25 November 2018

Isaac Julien Studio is proud to announce the UK premiere of the ten-screen installation of Stones Against Diamonds which was first shown in 2015 at the Venice Biennale, Art Basel and Miami Basel as part of Rolls Royce Art Program.


The premiere will take place at the York Art Gallery exhibition ‘Strata, Rocks, Dust & Stars’ from 28 September – 25 November 2018.


Stones Against Diamonds was inspired by a passage from a letter taken from the anthology ‘Stones Against Diamonds’, written by the seminal modernist architect and designer, the Italian-born Brazilian Lina Bo Bardi. Julien’s work of the same name explores themes within this text where Bo Bardi admires the beauty of natural elements over precious stones, believing them to be more beautiful, and describing how collecting semi-precious stones helped inspire the architect and designer to rethink design in a most remarkable way.


To film Stones Against Diamonds Isaac Julien took a film crew of 50 to the wilderness of Iceland, where they filmed for five days in isolated glacial ice caves in the South East region of Vatnajökull. The artist interpreted this remote landscape as a metaphor of the unconscious, a place of rich beauty but difficult to access.


 Signature elements of Bo Bardi’s work have left a lasting impression on both international architects and designers. Julien's film installation incorporates her famed spiral staircase at Solar do Unhão in Bahia, Brazil; the first stage meticulously built on set in sub-zero temperatures, later continued and then merged using CGI post-production. Furthering the parallels, Julien includes Bo Bardi’s signature easels which are made of glass and concrete, two elements present in the majority of her practice. Julien references these in both the film itself and in the presentation of his work, where the film is shown on flat screens and supported by concrete blocks.


Vanessa Myrie, an actress and performer who has worked on several of Julien’s previous projects such as True North (2004) and Western Union: Small Boats (2007), appears within the piece as a condamblé. Myrie takes the viewer on a mesmerising journey across a symbolic landscape of glaciers, rocks and black volcanic sands, all glistening like diamonds. Julien reminds us not only of the earth’s fragility – the melting of the glacier which carves out these caves – but also of a contaminated sublime; that some of the most beautiful objects are the least precious in a conventional sense.

Curated by Mike Stubbs (Director of FACT, Liverpool) in partnership with York Museums Trust and York Mediale, the exhibition features works by the following artists:

  • Isaac Julien
  • Agnes Meyer Brandis
  • Semiconductor
  • Phil Coy
  • Liz Orton
  • David Jacques
  • Ryoichi Kurokawa


It examines not only geological strata, but also explores a timely and contemporary poetic layering of human curiosity, exploration and reflection on the universe.


For more information please visit York Art Gallery

For more information on the work visit Stones Against Diamonds


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