Western Union: Small Boats is the final part in the trilogy of audiovisual installations opening with True North (2004) and continued with Fantôme Afrique (2005). Now, his new work focuses on the life journey of African migrants trying to enter Europe. Deeply moved by the photographs of corpses washed ashore on Spanish beaches, Julien began a process of research that took him from the remote Chinese province of Fujian to the coast of Sicily. Isaac Julien tells us the story of those migrants—whom Walter Benjamin called “angels”—from an Africa tore by the contradictions of modernism, to a Europe entrenched behind its privileges and its security.

Western Union Series # 7

Isaac Julien, Western Union Series # 7, 2007. Caja de luz. 120 x 120 cm

Western Union: Small Boats

Isaac Julien, Western Union: Small Boats, 2008. Vista de la instalación. Cortesía del Artista y Galería Helga de Alvear, Madrid. Foto: Joaquín Cortés

Western Union: Small Boats

Isaac Julien, Western Union: Small Boats, 2008. Vista de la instalación. Cortesía del Artista y Galería Helga de Alvear, Madrid. Foto: Joaquín Cortés

Western Union: Small Boats

Isaac Julien, Western Union: Small Boats, 2008. Vista de la instalación. Cortesía del Artista y Galería Helga de Alvear, Madrid. Foto: Joaquín Cortés

Western Union: Small Boats

Isaac Julien, Western Union: Small Boats, 2008. Vista de la instalación. Cortesía del Artista y Galería Helga de Alvear, Madrid. Foto: Joaquín Cortés

Western Union: Small Boats

Isaac Julien, Western Union: Small Boats, 2008. Vista de la instalación. Cortesía del Artista y Galería Helga de Alvear, Madrid. Foto: Joaquín Cortés

Western Union: Small Boats

Isaac Julien, Western Union: Small Boats, 2008. Vista de la instalación. Cortesía del Artista y Galería Helga de Alvear, Madrid. Foto: Joaquín Cortés

Western Union: Small Boats

Isaac Julien, Western Union: Small Boats, 2008. Vista de la instalación. Cortesía del Artista y Galería Helga de Alvear, Madrid. Foto: Joaquín Cortés

Western Union: Small Boats

Isaac Julien, Western Union: Small Boats, 2008. Vista de la instalación. Cortesía del Artista y Galería Helga de Alvear, Madrid. Foto: Joaquín Cortés

Western Union: Small Boats

Isaac Julien, Western Union: Small Boats, 2008. Vista de la instalación. Cortesía del Artista y Galería Helga de Alvear, Madrid. Foto: Joaquín Cortés

Western Union: Small Boats

Isaac Julien, Western Union: Small Boats, 2008. Vista de la instalación. Cortesía del Artista y Galería Helga de Alvear, Madrid. Foto: Joaquín Cortés