Julianknxx at Nocturnal Creatures. Whitechapel Gallery

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Artist Julianknxx questions what it means to breathe, freely, through film and performance at Nocturnal Creatures

  • Featured film runs continuously during Nocturnal Creatures from 6-11pm
     
  • Live performances staged at 9pm, 9:30pm and 10pm and streamed on Whitechapel Gallery’s Instagram

The act of breathing is politically and socially charged in?2021 according to interdisciplinary artist Julianknxx (b. 1987, Sierra Leone), “The air is different now; we need to think about how we breath”. His new film commission and live performance Black Corporeal (Between This Air) (2021) is screened in full for the first time during Nocturnal Creatures 2021, Whitechapel Gallery’s free one-night-only contemporary arts festival.

Whether referring to the omnipresent paranoia in the time of Covid-19, the tragic last words of George Floyd as his life was taken by the police, or the extreme rise in air pollution, the artist’s Black Corporeal (Between This Air) examines the?physical and metaphysical aspects of breathing and calls to deconstruct dominant perspectives in order to allow new black structures and realities to breathe, freely.

Commissioned by Wetransfer, the film alternates video, spoken word and live music, opening with a quote by author Ta-Nehisi Coates: “I believed, and still do, that our bodies are ourselves, that my soul is the voltage conducted through neurons and nerves, and that my spirit is my flesh”. The slow movements of costumed dancers are set to a striking multi-layered score by renowned composer James William Blades, featuring repetitive calls to breathe and the artist’s own poetry.

Julianknxx’s work is deeply rooted in both the stories and languages of his birthplace of Freetown, Sierra Leone, and to the sounds and voices of his current home in London. It is the connection between these places through which the artist approaches legacies of colonialism, the relationship between materiality and the black psyche, and the power of speech and song. Black Corporeal (Between This Air) critically explores the idea that one’s ability to breathe – an act that is continuously challenged by everything from stress, anxiety and societal prejudice – is more than the lungs’ ability to take in air; it is a reflection of the way people live individually and together.

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