On 14th September 2023, Barbican and WePresent in partnership with Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation will launch Julianknxx: Chorus in Rememory of Flight.
This ambitious new commission is the first institutional solo exhibition by poet, artist and filmmaker Julianknxx, and is enriched by supporting content available online on WePresent, the arts platform of WeTransfer.
Julianknxx is one of the most talented moving image artists working in the UK and it is a great pleasure to bring his poetic, polyvocal vision into the Barbican for visitors to congregate and reflect.Eleanor Nairne, Senior Curator, Barbican,
At the Barbican, visitors will be immersed in a multi-screen film installation borne out of a year in which Julianknxx has travelled to port cities across Europe to collaborate with Black choirs. Acting as a poetic archivist, he has collected their performances, testimonies, and contexts to create a series of films that reflect on choral song as a means of resistance to the eradication of difference. He is inspired in this work by the words of philosopher Édouard Glissant: ‘you can change with the Other while being yourself, you are not one, you are multiple, and you are yourself’.
Filmed in Hamburg, Rotterdam, Antwerp, London, Marseille, Barcelona and Lisbon, the project charts a staggering 4000 kilometres; these vast distances offer a reflection on the many miles traversed by those interviewed and by their ancestors throughout history. A single repeated refrain – ‘we are what’s left of us’ – binds the choral voices together, speaking to the ways in which music can enable the survival of cultural memory across the reaches of time and distance.
Drawing on the writings of scholars including Paule Marshall (Praisesong for the Widow, 1983) and Lorna McDaniel (Praisesongs in Rememory of Flight, 1998), Julianknxx’s films encourage new perspectives on what it means to be caught between multiple histories and places, offering up the choir as a metaphor for community. Culminating in an area for reading and reflection, the exhibition emphasises the importance of listening and engaging in alternative ways of telling the stories that have shaped our cultural identities.
The polyphonic nature of Julianknxx’s commission for The Curve is indicative of the artist’s broader interdisciplinary practice, which is rooted in poetry but extends into performance, film and music. Born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Julianknxx uses his personal history as a formative influence for challenging and reimagining dominant perspectives on African art, history and culture. Drawing on oral history traditions and working with a distinctive aesthetic approach, his films attempt to reframe how we construct both local and global narratives, while reflecting on how it feels to exist in liminal spaces.
Julianknxx, Artist, said:
The Curve is a space that invites both artist and audience to embark on truly transformative journeys. This commission has allowed me to imagine The Curve through the collective dimension of the choir, which brings together diverse voices as a powerful conduit for memory and a testament to resistance. Through Chorus in Rememory of Flight, it is my hope that The Curve will become a place to engage
audiences in active listening, continuous learning, and boundless exploration.
Julianknxx: Chorus in Rememory of Flight, The Curve, Barbican Centre & online on WePresent
14th September 2023 – 11th February 2024
About the artist
Julianknxx is resident artist at 180 Studios, London, and has exhibited in the UK and internationally; upcoming exhibitions and performances will be at Tate Modern, London (2023) and Art Basel Conversations: Sonic Performance, Basel (2023). Recent group shows include Rites of Passage, Gagosian, London (2023); To Be Held, Carl Freedman Gallery, Margate (2023); Whitechapel Gallery Open, London (2022); Nocturnal Creatures, Whitechapel Gallery (2021); Lux, 180 The Strand, London (2021); The View from There, Sadie Coles HQ, London (2021); Contra La Raza [Against Race], Matadero, Madrid (2021); Roots & Roads, Franklin Street Works, Stamford CT, (2020); and Now Gallery, London (2019). Performances include: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon (2023); Fact Magazine (Online Residency) (2021); OT301 Amsterdam (2020); ICA London, (2019); Jazz Cafe, BBC Radio 5; and London Literature Festival at Southbank Centre (2018).