The Leopard (WESTERN UNION: small boats), 2007
Isaac Julien RA (b. 1960)
RA Collection: Art
'The Leopard' is a single-screen version of Isaac Julien's five-screen video work WESTERN UNION: small boats, which was shown (in the latter form) in the 2017 Summer Exhibition. In his book Riot (published in conjunction with a 2013-4 exhibition at MoMA), Julien writes at length about western union: small boats, including a passage explaining the origin of the title of this work, 'The Leopard':
'I come from cinema; it's cinema I'm quoting from and cinema I reappropriate. As much as I work to disentangle myself from genre, cinema remains my home and my reference. So WESTERN UNION: small boats takes place in Italy, and makes allusions to the afterlife of Italian film. Sicilian histories have been mythologized on screen for decades; I wanted to try to have a conversation with that. So a lot of the work is set in the Palazzo Valguarnera-Gangi, a key location for Luchino Visconti's film The Leopard (1963). Visconti was an aristocrat who was won over to Marxism- through film, after he met and worked with Jean Renoir- and The Leopard is an extraordinary film. It deals with the psyche of a Sicilian prince whose condition of privilege is ending as Italy starts to unify. Visconti set a very complex ballroom scene in the Palazzo Gangi, a total tour de force of visual composition. But the whole film shows power meditating on its domain, looking at the landscape and trying to come to terms with different bodies suddenly occupying it, doing different things. I used the same spaces in Western Union, but I was talking about another population' [of African migrants to Italy, including Sicily and Lampedusa- both locations used in the film].
265 mm x 105 mm, box Length: 340 mm
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