los-angeles

Isaac Julien

MAK Center for Art and Architecture, Schindler House

Isaac Julien’s recent exhibition at MAK Center for Art and Architecture consisted of a group of photographs, some of them triptychs, which are stills from a fourteen-minute film (not shown here) shot in Iceland and northern Sweden in 2004. Collectively titled “True North,” these works offer a loose retelling and interpretation—what Julien has called a “re-memorizing”—of the story of Matthew Henson. This underacknowledged African American was the right-hand man upon whom Robert E. Peary depended for the success of his 1909 expedition to the North Pole, and was likely the first man to reach the point of true north.

The film, designed to be shown on three screens, juxtaposes intermittent sequences that deliver a nonlinear narrative. A figure of African descent, so bundled up in fur and wool that it’s impossible to tell whether it’s male or female, is shown striding across icy terrain alongside

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