Isaac Julien’s film installation WESTERN UNION: Small Boats, a meditation on migration and the hope for a better life, opens at Two Rooms on 11 August.
Known for his extravagantly beautiful filmmaking, Julien depicts the picturesque seaside village of Agrigento and the grandeur of Palazzo Gangi (famed location from Visconti’s masterpiece “The Leopard”) in stunning juxtaposition to a deadly voyage.
To escape deplorable economic and human rights conditions, thousands of African and Asian “clandestines” depart each year from North Africa on the 100-mile journey across the Mediterranean Sea to the southern coast of Sicily. Setting off in larger boats they are transferred mid-sea to highly overcrowded smaller fishing boats where they are left to drift for days on end until they are sighted by the coastguard.
Employing a suggestive, non-representational cinematic style, WESTERN UNION: Small Boats subverts strict narrative, creating a collage of sound and image. Throughout the film, choreographer Russell Maliphant has created a series of vignettes echoing and rearticulating these dramatic voyages.
WESTERN UNION: Small Boats is the final installment of Julien’s trilogy about journeying across continents and cultures that includes True North (2004) and Fantome Afrique (2005).