Isaac Julian Goslar accepts the Kaiserring

Isaac Julian Goslar accepts the Kaiserring

Goslar. Isaac Julian, who was knighted by the Queen for his artistic talents this summer, hasn’t stopped smiling over the past few days – and Gosler was happy. This year’s Kaiserring laureate assured everyone he met how much he loved the beautiful city in the Harz Mountains and how happy he was to receive the prestigious art prize. It has been awarded there every year since Henry Moore first accepted it in 1975, and the list of winners reads like a Who’s Who of modern art. It is attractive to all artists even if they are not awarded the prize.

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Born in 1960 to Caribbean immigrants in London’s multicultural East End, Isaac Julian studied film and art at St Martin’s School of Art in London. A movement of black independent filmmakers searching for their identity. During that time he created the 16mm film “Looking for Langston”, which premiered at the Berlinale in 1989 and won an award.

Amazing show at Monchehos

He can now be seen again at the Monchehos Museum Goslar, in a spectacular exhibition accompanying the award ceremony. A masterpiece that has achieved iconic status for many of the artist’s admirers, this painting is dedicated to Langston Hughes (1902-1967), whose poem “I, Too, Sing America” ​​became an icon of the American civil rights movement. Hughes played a role in the Harlem Renaissance, a social and cultural movement of African-American artists and writers in 1920s New York.

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Although shot in black and white, this is not a documentary. Julian calls it a meditation in the opening credits. In his title, he reflects who the poet really is, less respected by the black community than the white upper class, but for a long time did not dare to make his homosexuality public. For Julien, the film, made at the height of the AIDS epidemic, was a way to unmask himself by sexual orientation or skin color.

Film about Frederick Douglass

The film looks to its creation’s past and present to be black, gay and proud at the same time. He does so in the form of an elegant collage of stock images and self-directed scenes, many of which are set in a club where men dance, drink and make love to men. Very aesthetically shot in the style of a 1920s Hollywood movie. Amazing: Before Isaac Julien even shot a single frame of his film, he had the soundtrack in mind as a perfect mix of different lyrics, poetry, blues songs and jazz.

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Julien’s second film “Lessons of the Hour”, shot 30 years later in 2019, is also about a historical figure. Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), an escaped slave, became the foremost freedom fighter of his time. Self-educated, he learned to read and write, becoming a brilliant, eloquent and prolific writer, and with the support of his wife, Anna, fought in new guises to end slavery, making him the most influential and most photographed African American. century

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The rich color film, originally created for an installation of ten screens and screened on only one in Goslar due to lack of space, is a convincing mix of fact and fiction. From 1845 to 1847 he traces the young Douglas’ journey to England, Ireland and Scotland, where he demanded equality and freedom for himself and his kind. For these performances, Julian Douglas used excerpts from three famous speeches he gave later back in the States.

A long road to equality

Ray Fearon, a black member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, plays the young Douglas, and the climax of the film is his grand Fourth of July speech. The day the United States declared its independence from Great Britain in 1776 is celebrated every year in the United States. Only blacks had nothing to celebrate that day. They continued to be treated as slaves.

Even today, spectacular fireworks displays and joyous 4th of July parades don’t really make them happy. As Isaac Julian unfolds these celebrations on screen, he overlays them with Black Lives Matter protests, flashing lights, police sirens, and surveillance drones in the sky. That’s the “lesson for today”: Frederick Douglass’ dreams of liberty and equality still have a long way to go before they are finally realized.

At the Mönchehaus Museum Goslar until January 29, 2023

By Michael Stober

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