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Isaac Julien
ulien understands that the gallery installation might be said to allegorise the current condition of cinema, while also drawing on codes and formats specific to the site of the gallery.

In this respect, Julien can be seen alongside other figures such as Chris Marker, Chantal Ackerman, Marlon Riggs, and Haroun Farocki, all of them film-makers who have pushed at the outer limits of what cinema is capable of. Julien's work also understands that what is lost in terms of cinematic specificity in the transition to the gallery makes something else possible and he explores this in the way that his work mobilises the look of the figures in his shots, as well as the looks of his ambulant spectators. In the relative absence of cinematic 'depth' to the image, the installation flattens, fragments and multiplies both the image and, in the process, the spectator's act of looking which, rather than being absorbed into a play of depth and planes as it is with the cinematic image, is made to move across, to laterally scan, to ricochet between images. Julien's installations, it seems to me, are quite explicit about this. They feature elements that recognise this fragmentation, this kaleidoscopic confluence of looks and gazes: the multipe split-screens and internal mirror effects of Vagabondia; the playful references to the famous 'Are you lookin' at me?' sequence with De Niro from Scorsese's Taxi Driver in The Long Road to Mazatlan [2000].

This concern with the act of looking and with the confluence of looks that cinematic spectatorship explores, is a long-standing feature of Julien's work in which the 'look' becomes the index of desire, of conflict, of mis-identification. But it must also be seen as a fundamental structuring trope of cinematic representation. Think of how 'shot/counter-shot' works in narrative cinema, the look from one character to another becoming the invisible spine of a scene, an expressive element as well as a basic structural tool. In Territories, for example, the 'look' is the incommensurable space between white law and black subject and one achieved through a montage effect, that of the superimposition, given in a repeated sequence, of shots of a policeman and a young black man. Julien's 1996 made-for-TV documentary-essay film on Frantz Fanon's life, times and legacy, Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask, is shot through with this repertoire of enigmatic looking, frequently breaking out of the conventions of easily stitched-together shot/counter-shot conventions and, through an effective combination of direct, frontal looks to-camera and glancing, 'un-matched' looks, converging in the territory of the spectator. One such example of this repertoire of looks is reprised several times in Fanon in the sequences where the film treats Fanon's time as a psychologist working in Algeria during the years of the country's liberation struggle. One of the most striking moments has two of Fanon's patients (alternately, an Algerian freedom fighter and a French soldier), Fanon himself and a hospital orderly locked in a set of looks that do not meet, that cannot meet because what is being related by both patients is the terrifying psychic costs of oppression and resistance, in which violence means that looks cannot meet without engendering further violence. The 'look' is a resource, as well as being an element of film grammar, of particular use to a film-maker exploring the themes of racialised and sexualised looking. Of course, the regimes of cinematic looking and their relationship to the gaze of the audience has been a core component of psychoanalytical and feminist film theory. But in Julien's hands it also becomes a way of exploring, enhancing and defining the differences and distance between 'cinema' and the gallery film.

Chris Darke
Chris Darke is a writer and film critic base in London. A collection of his essays 'Light Readings: Film Criticism and Screen Arts' is published by Wallflower Press. His monograph on Jean-Luc Godard's 'Alphaville' will be published by I.B.Tauris early in 2005.
Installation shot of The Long Road To Mazatlán by Isaac Julien, 1999
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