In 2004, 21 Chinese workers drowned at Morecambe Bay in North West England. They were cockle pickers, illegal immigrants who were poorly trained, underpaid and far away from their home in the Fujian province of China.
Something about the story struck artist Isaac Julien. He immediately felt compelled to make a kind of tribute or reparation piece about the workers' deaths.
"The people had traveled such a far distance to create a better life for themselves," Julien says, sitting in the middle of his resulting nine-screen video and film installation, Ten Thousand Waves, which is currently showing at Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's downtown location. "And they came to such sordid ends. I was, in a way, interested in allegorizing the news reports in the poetic sense."---
Julien ended up spending four years in China, introducing himself to the culture, history and lore of the Fujian province where the workers had lived. In Ten Thousand Waves, he spins together fact, fiction, calligraphy, cinematography, mythology, music and poetry.
As the vibrant, intense piece played out on the nine screens spread throughout the gallery, Julien explained Ten Thousand Waves to me in great detail. Push play to learn more about the piece, which is not only visually striking but might be the first-ever piece to really take advantage of sound in the MCASD's biggest downtown space.
Julian Isaac will speak about his work at 7 p.m. today, Feb. 23, at MCASD La Jolla. Click here for details.
Download Podcast: Here