Travel & See: Black Diaspora Art Practices since the 1980s
Kobena Mercer is Professor of History of Art and African American Studies at Yale University. He is author of Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies, editor of Cosmopolitan Modernisms, among other titles, and an inaugural recipient of the 2006 Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing.
Avid Iconographies: Isaac Julien
Film, video, and moving-image installation by black British artist Isaac Julien is examined through the lens of the interracial same-sex couple, which is approached as a trope Julien employs in an art practice that results in a queer aesthetic of perversion in which previously fixed meanings are led astray. Archive material in Looking for Langston (1989) and The Attendant (1993) is discussed in its dialogic relation to ethnographic photographs, abolitionist iconography, and negrophilia in twentieth-century modernism, with attention to the subtle ways Julien’s signature stylistic choices enact a queering of the trope’s boundary-crossing connotations of transgression. From J. M. W. Turner to Audre Lorde and Nicolas Roeg, the intertext crisscrossed by Julien’s aesthetic of creolization reveals a heterotropic dynamic in homoerotic iconography, as well as a homotropic dimension running beneath images of mixed-race heterosexual couplings.