Theo Eshetu: Constellations

25 September - 31 October 2015

Tiwani Contemporary now represents Theo Eshetu and we are delighted to announce his first solo exhibition in the UK. Considered one of the most influential media practitioners of the contemporary era, the London-born Ethiopian artist is known for his pioneering work across TV, film and video.

Since the 1980s, Theo Eshetu has combined the formal components of film with anthropological ideas to examine the notion of culture itself. His manipulation of time and light leads to work that draws on themes, images and symbols from the artist’s dual European and African background. As one of the first artists to work exclusively with video art, Eshetu has contributed significantly to the medium’s recognition within the context of fine art.

Tiwani Contemporary will show Eshetu’s acclaimed 2014 work Anima Mundi, an immersive multimedia and video installation. Situated within a mirror box, the work’s flickering globe of moving images alludes both to the multiplicity of ways to perceive the world and the capacity of video to create illusions. An abstract narrative references anthropology, art history, scientific research, religious rituals and iconography, history and personal experience. The viewer is also part of this tableau as their own image is reflected ad infinitum, representing the idea of life as a spectacle, and a telling metaphor of our modern-day obsession with images.

The five-screen video installation Meditation Light (2006) will also be exhibited at the gallery. A fragmented record of Ethiopia, where Eshetu lived until the age of five, the piece's preoccupation with light underlines its role as the raw material for video. In fixing fleeting memories onto film reel, the work challenges the way in which new media art can evoke intrinsically human experiences. In connection with Anima MundiMeditation Light considers arbitrary distinctions between 'us' and 'them', which have informed much of film and television's representations of non-western cultures.

The exhibition will also display works from The Mirror Ball Constellation (2013), a series based on an intervention in which the artist placed a disco ball in the celebrated Polynesian Boat room at the Ethnological Museum in Berlin, as a comment on the museum's move from its current location in Dahlem to the Humboldt Forum. The photographs show traditional masks and globes partially covered with tiny pieces of mirror to reflect the entertainment-oriented nature of the museum, demonstrating the modern world's preoccupation with performance and spectacle. With the erasure of established nations and continents, the globe becomes one sequinned shape, echoing Eshetu’s personal experience of cultural hybridity and, quoting the 1970s band Funkadelic, creating what he refers to as 'one nation under a groove'.