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Julianknxx: Chorus in Rememory of Flight

Julianknxx, Production still of Chorus in Rememory of Flight, 2023 © Studioknxx

Julianknxx, Production still of Chorus in Rememory of Flight, 2023 © Studioknxx

Barbican launches Julianknxx: Chorus in Rememory of Flight, co-commissioned with WePresent in partnership with Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. 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.

At the Barbican, visitors are immersed in a multi-screen film installation borne out of a year in which Julianknxx has travelled to cities across Europe to collaborate with choirs, politicians, dancers, activists and leading figures from their Black communities. Through a practice of active listening, he has collected their performances, testimonies, and contexts to create a series of films that reflect on the chorus as a means of resistance to the eradication of difference. He is inspired 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, Berlin, Amsterdam, 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 refrain – ‘we are what’s left of us’ – binds the choral voices together, speaking to the ways in which music can be a vital conduit for the survival of cultural memory.

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 expansive practice, which is rooted in poetry but extends into performance, film, music and sculpture. Born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Julianknxx draws on his personal experiences to broaden perspectives on the history and culture of Africa and its diasporas. Inspired by oral history traditions and working with a distinctive aesthetic approach, his films invite us to consider 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.’

Eleanor Nairne, Senior Curator, Barbican, said: ‘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.’

Holly Fraser, Editor-in-Chief, WePresent, said: ‘WePresent has commissioned stories from over 1000 artists from 100 countries, bringing them to a global audience on WeTransfer. In the three years we have collaborated with Julianknxx we have seen his ideas take shape across different media, geographies, and communities. It’s exciting to act as co-commissioners with the Barbican to bring the latest iteration to The Curve.’

Julianknxx is resident artist at 180 Studios, London, and has exhibited in the UK and internationally, including in the current exhibition A World in Common: Contemporary African Photography, Tate Modern, London. 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: Art Basel Conversations: Sonic Performance, Basel (2023); 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).