Press Releases

Arctic Re-visions: Isaac Julien's True North

For Release: May 2010

Akron, Ohio, May 10, 2010 — Museum goers will have a chance to experience an immersive, cinematic re-imagining of the discovery of the North Pole [film was shot in Iceland and Sweden] in the upcoming audio-visual installation Arctic Re-visions: Isaac Julien’s True North, on view June 5 – October 3, 2010 at the Akron Art Museum.

“We are thrilled to present the Midwest debut of British artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien’s seminal audio-visual installation True North, which is an important addition to the Akron Art Museum’s collection,” said Ellen Rudolph, curator of exhibitions.

Unfolding on three screens that span nearly 40 feet, the mesmerizing installation transports viewers through a bleak yet sublime arctic landscape, which has seduced scientists, explorers, writers and visual artists since the 19th century. True North is loosely inspired by the story of Matthew Henson (1866-1955), the black American explorer who accompanied Robert Peary and was among the first people to reach the North Pole in 1909. The video’s narration is taken from a shocking interview in which Henson claimed that he had reached the Pole before Peary. Henson stated that they argued about it so forcefully that he feared Peary might murder him.

In this fragmented narrative, Julien opens up the history of polar exploration to re-examine it in terms of race and gender by casting Henson as a black woman. As she retraces Henson’s steps across the frozen landscape, she hauntingly recounts his words, while mysterious sounds and music echo the vast, isolated landscape. Julien sets up a meditative pace by which to contemplate the stark contrast between black and white, the wide open spaces and the fragmented story of discovery and betrayal that is slowly revealed.

Installation run-time is 14 minutes, playing on a continuous loop in the Karl and Bertl Arnstein Galleries.


Isaac Julien was born in 1960 in London, where he currently lives and works. After graduating from St. Martin's School of Art in 1984, where he studied painting and fine art film, Isaac Julien founded Sankofa Film and Video Collective (1983–1992), and was a founding member of Normal Films in 1991.

Julien was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2001 for his films The Long Road to Mazatlán (1999), made in collaboration with Javier de Frutos and Vagabondia (2000), choreographed by Javier de Frutos. Earlier works include Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask (1996), Young Soul Rebels (1991) which was awarded the Semaine de la critique prize at the Cannes Film Festival the same year, and the acclaimed poetic documentary Looking for Langston (1989).

Julien was visiting lecturer at Harvard University's Schools of Afro-American and Visual Environmental Studies and is currently a visiting professor at the Whitney Museum of American Arts. He was also a research fellow at Goldsmiths College, University of London and is a Trustee of the Serpentine Gallery. Julien was the recipient of both the prestigious MIT Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts (2001) and the Frameline Lifetime Achievement Award (2002). His work Paradise Omeros was presented as part of Documenta XI in Kassel (2002). In 2003 he won the Grand Jury Prize at the Kunstfilm Biennale in Cologne for his single screen version of Baltimore and the Aurora Award in 2005.

Most recently, he has had solo shows at the Pompidou Centre in Paris (2005), MoCA Miami (2005) and the Kerstner Gesellschaft, Hanover (2006). Julien is represented in the Tate Modern, Centre Pompidou, Guggenheim and Hirshhorn Collections.


“Urban/Arctic: Choose Your Adventure” Opening Party
Friday, June 4, 7 – 9 pm

Mark your calendar to attend the opening party for both the Detroit Disassembled: Photographs by Andrew Moore and Arctic Re-visions: Isaac Julien’s True North exhibitions. Local sensation DJ Moose Malloy will spin Motown favorites, while you enjoy foods with a Detroit flavor and chill down with snowcones in both regular and “adult” flavors. Cash Bar offered. Tickets available at the door: $10 for nonmembers, $6 for Western Reserve PBS members; free event for museum members. For more information call 330.376.9186 x222. The Opening Party is supported by a generous gift from Mr. and Mrs. Robert Weisberger.

ArtTalk@Dusk (part of the Downtown@Dusk summer concert series)
Thursday, August 5, 7:30 – 7:45 pm

Join Curator of Exhibitions Ellen Rudolph for a free ArtTalk@Dusk titled “Crystalline Voyages: Polar Exploration in Art” in the Charles and Jane Lehner Auditorium. Seating will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Film Screening: Isaac Julien’s “Derek”
Thursday, September 2, 6:30 pm

“Derek” follows the life of Derek Jarman, perhaps the single most important figure of British independent cinema through the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s. This screening is free and seating will be available on a first-come, first-served basis in the Charles and Jane Lehner Auditorium.

Film Screening: Isaac Julien’s “BaadAsssss Cinema”
Thursday, September 9, 6:30 pm

Julien's documentary examines the short-lived, but deeply influential, flourishing of commercial Black independent filmmaking in the early 1970s, which became known as "blaxploitation". This screening is free and seating will be available on a first-come, first-served basis in the Charles and Jane Lehner Auditorium.

This exhibition is organized by the Akron Art Museum and made possible by support from the Gay Community Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation, The Burton D. Morgan Foundation, the Harris-Stanton Gallery and The Welty Family Foundation.

Museum Information
Address: One South High, Akron, OH 44308
Tel: 330.376.9185
Fax: 330.376.1180
Gallery and Store Hours: Wednesday – Sunday: 11 am – 5 pm, Thursday: 11 am – 9 pm, Closed Monday and Tuesday as well as major holidays
Café Hours: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: 11 am – 4 pm
Library Hours: Wednesday, Thursday and Friday: 11 am – 4 pm
Admission: Adult general admission is $7, Student and Senior (65+) general admission is $5, Children (12 and under) are FREE, members are FREE. On the first Sunday of every month, individual admission to the collection is FREE. Special exhibitions may require paid admission. No tours available on these days.


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Media Contact

Dominic Caruso
Design, Marketing and Communications Coordinator
Phone: 330.376.9186 x229

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