Isaac Julien has layered scenes from Iceland’s glacial caves against an ecclesiastical backdrop during Art Basel.
The London-based artist’s video installation – Stones Against Diamonds – is set across ten screens in the Neo-Gothic Kirche Elisabethen, casting an icy glow across its 19th century nave.
Julien’s film was inspired by a letter written by Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi of the same name, in which she praised semi-precious stones over precious gemstones, turning conventional notions of beauty on their head. The artist and his 50-strong crew travelled to the remote Vatnajökull region of South East Iceland, shooting the film inside caves formed over thousands of years.
Adding to the challenge, Julien incorporated elements of Bo Bardi’s work into these rarely accessible caves, including a staircase built by hand. A larger version of the staircase was recreated during post-production before being merged – via CGI – to replicate Bo Bardi’s famous spiral staircase.
‘It was the breadth of Lina Bo Bardi’s creative impulse and egalitarian beauty of her work that moved me to develop a poetic homage on the art and life of Brazil’s most important woman architect,’ says the artist.
‘Stones Against Diamonds is the beginning of my exploration of her emblematic architectural designs and innovative curatorial strategies that have inspired me following the centenary of her birth in 2014.’
Commissioned by Rolls-Royce, the work is shown on a loop inside the church. It is repeated five times within the hour, varying slightly each time to keep visitors on their toes.
Stones Against Diamonds is on view from 16-18 June, at the Kirche Elisabethen, Elisabethenstrasse 10, 4051 Basel, Switzerland. Art Basel runs from 18-21 June.