Isaac Julien: Fantôme Afrique at Ruby City
From May 11, 2023 Ruby City will present Isaac Julien: Fantôme Afrique.
In discussing his three-screen, 18-minute film installation, Julien described Fantôme Afrique (2005) as “weav[ing] cinematic and architectural references through the rich imagery of urban Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso in West Africa and, with the Burkina Faso film festival, the center for cinema in Africa. The city center is contrasted with the arid rural space of Burkina Faso, and archival footage from early colonial expeditions and landmark moments in African history punctuates the film.”
Fantôme Afrique references the French colonial powers that forcibly shaped Burkina Faso and the country’s self-determined response in the aftermath of occupation. Among the boldest responses was Burkina Faso’s investment in film and film production, enabling the country to connect with an international audience and industry. Featured in the film are two figures, a “witness” and “trickster,” who variously appear in several different sites in Ouagadougou. Their travels throughout different areas in the city reveal its complex hybridity born out of these historic forces and present-day realities. Julien’s film positions Burkina Faso, like many African countries, as occupying an altogether new territory, one that is alternatively global and local, urban and rural as well as preindustrial and contemporary. The title of the work alludes to surrealist writer Michel Leiris’ 1934 book L’Afrique Fantôme which detailed his participation in a French state-sponsored anthropological expedition. His book blended personal details with anthropological observations revealing hypocrisies of colonialism and collective exotic fantasies about Africa.
The exhibition will be on view May 11–July 25, 2023, and again September 8, 2023–April 2023. The installation will be closed July 25–September 7 during reinstallation of Ruby City’s permanent collection galleries.