“I wanted to make a work that would be like a form of reparation” explains Issac Julien about his piece, Ten Thousand Waves. I had to look up the word reparation to make sure I understood its implications. If you read the intellectual rationale Julien has consturcted around his installation at MoMA, it makes sense,. Sitting and walking around the nine double-sided screens at the Marron Atrium is a much more visaerale experience.
It might be easy to dismiss this work. You can come and go as you please: stay for 30 seconds or stay for the entire 50 minute loop. The soundtrack is matched to the images. At certain moments a poem can be understood, at other times people are speaking Chinese and other moments a drum beats waking those who might be taking a load off.
This sequence is one of the many narratives that are woven into Ten Thousand Waves. A calligrapher begins to write a phrase (only those who can read Chinese know what this man is writing who he is.). This man is seen on multiple screens, close up and from a distance. At certain moments the camera focuses on the letters. When he completes his task, several others come on the scene and start erasing what he has written.
Why do I like this piece? I appreciate Julien’s mastery of composing and juxtaposing images. For 50 minutes you try to figure what is going on: how the images are connected to each other and how they relate to Julien’s intention of reparation. That’s enough for me.
For those who want to hear it from the horses mouth; Julien will appear at a special event sponsored by MoMA on February 10.