Kass Banning and Warren Crichlow provide a historical and theoretical assessment of renowned British artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien's ten-screen installation Lessons of the Hour: Frederick Douglass (2019). Lessons of the Hour is inspired by a combination of Douglass's own genre-breaking autobiographical writing, personal letters, and published lectures that mobilized tropes of visuality for his own unique rhetorical ends. With its sculptural multiscreen architecture, lush color palette, and immersive affordances and soundscape, Julien's Lessons is less concerned with rendering a hagiographic portrait of Douglass than in reactivating his visionary thought as a continued force for human rights in the twenty-first century. Lessons underscores that the nascent technology of photography and the renewed struggle for liberation from chattel slavery emerged simultaneously in the mid-nineteenth century; this confluence fosters Douglass's lifelong personal and theoretical inquiry into what both truth and sovereignty—and visuality—might entail.
A Grand Panorama: Isaac Julien, Frederick Douglass, and Lessons of the Hour
Kass Banning teaches in the Cinema Studies Institute at the University of Toronto, where she specializes broadly in Canadian and Black British cinemas, to include documentary media, global screen cultures, black visuality, critical race theory, and artists' moving image installation.
Warren Crichlow teaches in the Faculty of Education at York University, where he specializes in the pedagogical dimensions of visual culture, museum and memory studies, black visual culture, and cultural studies. He is most recently a co-editor of Spaces of New Colonialism: Reading Schools, Museums and Cities in the Tumult of Globalization (Peter Lang, 2020).
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Kass Banning, Warren Crichlow; A Grand Panorama: Isaac Julien, Frederick Douglass, and Lessons of the Hour. Film Quarterly 1 June 2020; 73 (4): 11–24. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2020.73.4.11
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