60th Venice Biennale

A Journey into the Mind and Work of Julien Creuzet

Martinican artist Julien Creuzet intricately blends poetry, folklore, sounds, and sculptures into immersive installations that tell stories of Black resistance across the Diaspora, the Caribbean in particular. With whispers that olfactic components will be part of his show – the French Pavilion – at the 60th Venice Biennale, as well as an extensive collaborative sound archive, anticipation has been mounting.

MGM: This is key. He brought up the notion of overseas citizens, also referred to as “ultramarine citizens,” during the official press conference for the French Pavilion, held at Edouard Glissant’s house in Le Diamant, Martinique. He chuckled and explained that the expression “ultramarine citizen” makes him think of a Marvel character. The audience laughed. But there is tragedy and pain in his comparison: the comic-book characters are “strange” and “different” because they usually possess physical superpowers that make them nonhumans. The lands that these characters are from, France’s “ultramarine departments,” are then strange and foreign too.

CB: So many questions came up during our visit. One important one was “why was Julien selected to represent France”?

MGM: This was a very obvious question that no one dared to ask openly until the last day of our trip. We visited Campus Caribbean Des Arts, the art school where Julien had been a student for one year before deciding to leave his home and move to France. Julien invited family, friends, students, diplomats, journalists, and teachers to ask questions. One of them was: “Why were you chosen by the jury to represent France, now that your work is increasingly rooted in Antilleanness?” The artist’s response: “I think you need to ask them [Institut Français] this question. And then also, maybe they didn’t have a choice” – alluding to the current political climate in France. It’s an intriguing question to ask when trying to understand the broader context that this pavilion is taking place in.

CB: I want to talk about something that was as telling about our trip as the surrounding politics: the feelings. Our first gathering with the group of practitioners, elders, family and journalists invited by Julien and his team took place at Cap 110 at Anse Caffard. It’s a sculptural installation commemorating the abolition of enslavement. Sitting in a half-moon circle and wrapped in industrial and wave sounds, Julien announced that the days ahead would be a journey into his mind and work. I think it set the tone for what he was trying to achieve on the trip and for his approach in general: he wants us to feel his work.

MGM: Yes. Contrary to my expectations, he didn’t invite us here to talk about Venice. Instead he wanted us to experience and meet his loved ones, which includes his homeland itself. He underlined this through gestures such as greeting us in Creole or inviting us to eat trempage, a traditional Martinican dish. I felt very welcomed by Julien, his family, his team and collaborators.
The trip was like a piece of art. I found myself constantly looking for clues to understand what I was seeing and living in a bigger picture, just like I do when I see a new artwork.
This reminded me of how I felt when I was first introduced to Julien’s work at the 35th São Paulo Biennial. His work soothed my nervous system. I found solace by sitting in his mixed-media installation Zumbi, Zumbi Eterno and got lost in a world of rich shades of blue, sculptures, voices, music, and movement referencing cultures from Haiti to Martinique to Bahia. The installation, which features choreography by Brazilian artist and longtime collaborator Anna Pi, deals with the practices of Haitian zombification and the Maroon leader Zumbi dos Palmares from North-East Brazil. Over one and a half hours, I observed how Julien elegantly yet decidedly evaded visitors’ questions as some attempted to push him to make meaning of his work. We sat together in silence, looking at his installation. After a while we started to talk. It was a natural conversation with many pauses, silences, laughter, and interruptions. What stuck with me was the generosity with which he answered my questions about his work and research, while respectfully encouraging me to make my own interpretations: he provided context as if to feed my creativity.

This is what happened in Martinique too. The difference: we were now in the context that inspired his work and the entities providing additional context were waterfalls, poems, performances, and Julien’s loved ones, who were there every step of the way.

CB: I see Julien’s work as a reconstruction of different worlds. It’s as if the remains of an aged shipwreck begin to emerge and take on new meaning in the present. Glissant wrote, “I write in the presence of all the languages of the world.” I hear an echo of this in Julien’s work. As a Black Colombian who did not have access to art education, I wanted to understand how a person without an art education can relate and feel represented by Julien’s work and whether he is conscious of that question. In one of the conversations in Martinique, he explained that beauty is key and that everyone can understand it. But he also spoke about the generosity you just mentioned:

… within the question of beauty, there is also the question of generosity. Because everybody can understand when something is generous and when something is trying to be generous. And I’m sure that people who don’t have an artistic education, when they see an installation, can have feelings of generosity. Maybe with something simple, maybe with color, maybe with music, maybe with some details of the work. And that for me is very important.

MGM: I think it’s curious how little was verbally revealed during the press conference at Glissant’s house. That place, where thoughts around the need for opacity were born, poetically underlined Julien’s choice to share only scarce information about Venice. The most tangible was probably the title poem:

Attila cataract your source at the feet of the green peaks will end up in the great sea blue abyss we drowned in the tidal tears of the moon.

(Listen to the full poem in French as presented by Creuzet below. Julien Creuzet reciting title poem of 2024 French Pavilion. Recording: Marny Garcia Mommertz).


Cindy Sissokho said that everything one needs to know about the exhibition in Venice is in the title. But it was also said that Venice began in Martinique. And that “it is about decoding and listening with intention,” urging us to embrace the vast depth of interpretation Julien’s work has to offer. The multiple collaborators Julien picked to support him artistically during the trip made it easier to delve into his imagination and stay focused on the now.

CB: These collaborators and loved ones include poet Estelle Coppolani (Réunion), poet Simone Lagrand (Martinique), artist Victor Anicet (Martinique), artists Minia Biabiany (Guadeloupe), Valérie John (Martinique), Ana Pi (Brazil), Christian Bertin (Martinique), and performance artists Annabel Guérédrat and Henri Tauliauti (Martinique). They all represent different generations. The way Julien incorporated them into this trip can be seen as an artistic, critical, and political experiment.

MGM: Yes, because he let their work speak and fill in the blanks of potential questions that we had. For example, Bertin’s work – I thought that some of his sculptures were reminiscent of Julien’s. You could tell how Bertin’s work, which is rooted in a practice of working with natural and local materials, has shaped him aesthetically.

Lagrand made several poetic interventions. In one of them, a poem Pays-mêlé (mixed or chaotic country), at Schœlcher Library in Fort-de-France, she explicitly spoke about the consequences and pain of colonialism – something that Julien had mainly done in implicit ways. And then we saw Minia Biabiany‘s work at the foot of the Vulcano Montagne Pelée. I recently visited her in Guadeloupe and she made me understand how volcanoes are their own living entities in her practice. The understanding of elements of nature as living is very present in Julien’s work too. “Attila cataract your sources…”

CB: I speculate that in Venice, the sea will be the protagonist, a living territory that separates these different worlds that Julien dominates in his work.

It was my first time visiting Martinique and a French ultramarine department. Yet it felt familiar. It’s a place that I immediately associated with parts of the so-called continental Latin American Caribbean that I have lived in. I experienced Martinique as a place carrying a great colonial memory that persists in aspects of everyday life such as policies, taxes, and limitations. They appear to prohibit and regulate access to other worlds and the privileges of a “modern and globalized society.”

Going back to Julien, I see that in this context of territory, his work can be interpreted as an epigraph of his own territory and the transatlantic exchanges between France in the European continent and the France that Julien shared with us. He is constantly working to make his references the center of his world. He is not afraid to be strange.

This text was produced with the support of the Caribbean Art Initiative.


Julien Creuzet is a plastic artist working with sound, sculptures, film, and other media. His studio is currently in Paris, France and where he also teaches at l’Université des Beaux Arts.

Cristian Baena Cera, Afro-Caribbean, born in Colombia with Lebanese lineage. Artist, journalist and researcher of visual culture, based between Mexico City and Los Angeles, California. His vision of the visual arts has been based on decolonial thinking, the questioning of the structural and hegemonic processes of the Caribbean and the Afro memory of his country. He also mimes the influence of war in the construction of narratives of power and racism. His work mixes journalistic essay, photography and ethnic-editorial. He represents stories about race, bodies, territories, gender and design as a way for social impact. He edits and writes content for the social media accounts of C& AL and C&.

Marny Garcia Mommertz is a writer and artist interested in experimental forms of archiving in the Diaspora as well as Black Holocaust survivor and artist Fasia Jansen. She works as managing editor for C& AL.