burger Button

Object of the month: Film stills of Isaac Julien’s „Trussed“

30. July 2021

„Trussed“ – to the eye, the synonym of bound, to the ear, trust. Film maker Isaac Julien opted for this pun intentionally. His large-format video installation from 1996 deals with eroticism, illness, and AIDS/HIV via images of intimacy, sexuality, and BDSM.

The film is mirrored on two screens. The installation manages without dialogue, the images are accompanied by spherical sounds. In this way, Julien provides an aesthetical experience through and through that appeals to the senses. The dancer seems supernatural in his outfit made of transparent plastic. As he dies, he is carried by his lover – here, Julien creates a pietà in leather aesthetics.

Since the late 1980s, Isaac Julien treats in his works Black and gay identities – always from a multidisciplinary perspective. In his work process, he leaves room for improvisation, often works in black-and-white, and with analog filming techniques. His perspective on queerness is also unconventional, and often focusses on Black, gender-nonconforming, or ill people. He aims to remove Black people from the regime of dominance they are usually subjected to in film and photography. His tool is an „aesthetics of reparation“ which he creates by showing queer, Black realities in their plurality, and uniting supposed contradictions, for example in „Trussed“.

In this installation, the film maker breaks with stereotypes on gay sex and AIDS/HIV. Julien achieves to show the tenderness and intimacy of BDSM without presenting a weary, tolerable image of gay eroticism. „Trussed“ is one of his first works in 1996, which he created for the museum space. Since 2000, he regularly produces installations next to documentaries and docu-dramas. „Innovation in the moving image is taking place in the museums and galleries, not really the cinema,“ he told the Evening Standard in 2019.

These two photographs, stills from the 21-minutes-long installation, were recently gifted to the SMU. With them, the museum not only possesses snapshots from an exceptional artist, but also another testimony to AIDS/HIV and its effects on communities and artists. More artefacts on this topic are on show from August 20 in the new exhibiton „ArcHIVe – a search for traces“!