ISAAC JULIEN PLAYTIME
24 January – 1 March 2014
Victoria Miro is delighted to announce Isaac Julien’s
PLAYTIME, an ambitious new body of work exploring
the dramatic and nuanced subject of capital.
The exhibition coincides with the UK publication by
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, of Isaac
Julien: RIOT, the first publication to span the artist’s
trail-blazing career over the past three decades.
The exhibition is situated across Victoria Miro’s Wharf Road and Mayfair galleries and features the world premiere of the eponymous
seven-screen installation, which stars an international roster of actors including Maggie Cheung, Mercedes Cabral, James Franco,
Colin Salmon and Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson, with Simon de Pury. Also on view is KAPITAL, a two-screen work documenting the artist in
conversation with leading academics such as David Harvey and Stuart Hall. At Victoria Miro’s Mayfair location, a suite of large-scale
photographic works are exhibited together with ENIGMA, a time-lapse city-scape video of Dubai, comprised of 2500 still images.
What drives people to cross continents in search of a “better life” is a question that has underpinned much of Julien’s work over the
past decade, and in responding to the question he repeatedly returns to the same answer: capital. PLAYTIME thus follows on from
Julien’s acclaimed nine screen installation Ten Thousand Waves (2010) – on view through 17 February at MoMA, New York – which
offers a response to the Morecambe Bay tragedy of 2004, where twenty-three Chinese cockle pickers were lost at sea, and Western
Union: small boats (2007), which explores the perilous voyages of those attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Africa to gain
entry into “fortress Europe,” a story that has tragically dominated the news headlines once again in recent months.
PLAYTIME is set across three cities defined by their role in relation to capital: London, a city transformed by the deregulation of the
banks; Reykjavik, where the 2008 global financial crisis began; and Dubai, one of the Middle East's burgeoning financial markets.
Part documentary and part fiction, the work follows six main protagonists – the Artist, the Hedge Fund Manager, the Auctioneer, the
House Worker, the Art Dealer, and the Reporter - interconnecting figures in the world of art and finance with the real stories of
individuals deeply affected by the crisis and the global flow of capital.
Exhibited for the first time as a seven-screen work, PLAYTIME transforms the whole of Victoria Miro’s upstairs Wharf Road gallery
into a striking and immersive installation, montaging the work’s protagonists and locations across multiple screens in reference to
capital’s potential to both facilitate global movement and to create its own barriers.
The two-screen KAPITAL, installed in the lower gallery, creates an intellectual framework for PLAYTIME, centering around a conversation
at the Hayward Gallery, London between Julien and renowned Marxist academic David Harvey (author of the book “The Enigma of
Capital”). Julien opens the film by asking why capital is so difficult to depict, to which Harvey deftly replies: “in the same way you can
only really intuit gravity exists by its effects, you can really only intuit that capital exists by its effects.” Staged as part of a seminar
entitled Choreographing Capital organised by the artist at the Hayward Gallery in 2012, the event saw notable interventions from
theorists, critics and curators such as Stuart Hall, Paul Gilroy, Irit Rogoff and Colin MacCabe. Julien has always made work in
collaboration, conversation and exchange but this is the first time he has opened up the complex and rigorous research processes that
lie behind his working methods.