Ten Thousand Waves

Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Niterói, 2016
3 September - 6 November 2016

When Isaac Julien started working with multi-screen film installations in the late 90s, he was naturally drawn to reflect upon the spatial qualities present in his work. In an increasingly troubled time of emergencies, war and globalenvironmental issues, moving images in a gallery context could represent an alternative view – one in which images can play a critical role in shaping our understanding of the world, rather than merely being used as a tool for propaganda, or for the art market. The gallery has become an important space for making interventions to review the differing cultural, political and aesthetic perspectives that make up “moving image” cultures from around the world.


Ten Thousand Waves has been exhibited in more than thirty countries all over the world, and each time Isaaac Julien is faced with new possibilities and challenges in terms of the use of space. In SESC Pompéia Julien created a dialogue with Lina Bo Bardi’s modern, brutalist design, whereas in MoMA he sought to understand Yoshio Taniguchi’s architectural thinking for the museum’s atrium. These architectonic dialogues are developed not only through the various screens and surrounding sound (in 5.1 surround sound), but also through experiencing the design of the installation itself, both in terms of the way one enters the space through nine screens, and how the arrangement of images and sounds remaps a site for witnessing journeys, which may be well known, but are newly being used as the basis for cinematic, video experience in an art gallery context.


In MAC Niterói the artist attempts a conversation with Oscar Niemeyer’s architectonic rationale by installing the nine-screen version of Ten Thousand Waves. The circularity of the building, which Niemeyer once described as a flower blooming from Guanabara Bay, is one of the key aspects that has influenced the way Ten Thousand Waves was experienced by the public. Julien mirrored the circular fluidity to be reflected on how people moved through the various screens, how they enter and leave the space, and ultimately their perception of the non-linearity, which characterises the montage of the film. Another significant architectonic feature of the museum is how Niemeyer created an elevated structure, with the aim of expanding the view of the bay’s remarkable landscape and natural features, which in turn have been so relegated over time. With this exhibition Isaaac Julien wanted the picturesque landscapes present in Ten Thousand Waves to create a correspondent free-flowing visual path from the inside to the outside of the museum, amplifying the sense of belonging and understanding of our place as citizens of the world and inhabitants of a shared ecosystem.

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