WESTERN UNION: Small Boats forms the final installment of Julien’s compelling trilogy of audiovisual film installations which also includes True North (2004) and Fantôme Afrique (2005). The works explore the impact of location – both cultural and physical – to resounding effect through a juxtaposition of opposing global regions.
Julien’s new work, WESTERN UNION: Small Boats concerns journeys made across the seas of the Mediterranean. The journeys and stories of so-called “clandestines” who leave Libya, escaping wars and famines. They can be seen as economic migrant workers, along with certain Europeans – Angels in Walter Benjamin’s terms – who bear witness to modernity’s failed hopes and dreams, and who now travel across oceanic spaces some never to arrive or return.
Expanding the themes of voyages, excursions and expeditions, WESTERN UNION: Small Boats is being produced at a time when advances in global telecommunications and new technologies are continually celebrated. One of the major questions arising from this development is the part individuals may play in this flow of information. Questions surrounding the circulation of human lives, the movements of bodies, and their personal stories, are timely when immigration policies generate controversy on a daily basis, and the relationships between nations are the source of much debate.