Images Before Images: Isaac Julien’s “Ten Thousand Waves” and “Better Life”

By Aija Laura Zivitere.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper explores the intertextual practices of Isaac Julien employed in his multi-channel installation work “Ten Thousand Waves” and the film “Better Life”, a reconfiguration of the former for a single screen. It is argued that these two works presuppose the recognition of the relationship of Julien’s cinematic images to specific works from Chinese cinema, literature and art. Quotations and allusions used by Isaac Julien are analyzed in terms proposed by Mieke Bal: that of the dispersal of origins, that of the undecidability of meaning, and that of the shifting location of meaning. Following Rosalind Galt in her research on the category of the pretty, this paper discusses both Julien’s works within the aesthetics of the surface, where the pretty intersects with the decorative, the ornamental, the colourful, and the picturesque.

Keywords: “Better Life”, Intertextuality, Isaac Julien, The Picturesque, The Pretty, ‘Ten Thousand Waves’

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp.173-186. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 813.585KB).

Aija Laura Zivitere

Lecturer, Department of Culture and Design, Information Systems Management Institute, Riga, Latvia

Aija Laura Zivitere is a researcher and lecturer in research methods at the Information Systems Management Institute in Riga, Latvia. Currently, she is working on her doctoral dissertation on Ai Weiwei. Since 2006, she has been involved in a research project about auteur cinema on the one hand, and cinema made by artists on the other. She previously studied music theory and history, and has worked as a music producer, an assistant film director, and a music and film critic.