Theo Eshetu at Akbank Sanat in Istanbul
Cultural identities have never been fixed and defined but are created and molded through political projections, erected and destroyed by historical events, and have fluctuated with the displacement of cultural objects and the migration of populations; all of which seem to point to the impossibility of fixing identities in time, as their nature is to be in constant flux. We can only define the now, and the now is grotesque, uncertain, and burdened by the ghosts of the past. There is, however, also beauty in the present, a vitality for new justices, a search for new harmonies and—contrary to facile political tendencies—an acceptance and desire for hybrid states hitherto unknown.
Eshetu is known for his pioneering work in film and video, combining his formal interest in the moving image with anthropological ideas to examine the notion of culture itself.
Theo Eshetu will be presenting two video installations; Atlas Fractured (2017) accompanied by a series of photographic portraits, and The Slave Ship (2015).
With The Slave Ship, Theo Eshetu continues his exploration of the fundamental components of video – time, movement and light – and creates a pensive oceanic epic evoking the history of slavery. The title of the installation references one of J.M.W Turner’s most celebrated works, the 1840 painting Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying – Typhoon Coming On (also known as The Slave Ship). The painting depicts the slave ship Zong pummelled by violent waves, as its captain throws enslaved men and women overboard in order to claim insurance.
The viewer is invited to look into a window that gives onto a pitch black space. There, a perfect, lucent orb shimmers with moving images of abyssal waters and enigmatic landscapes. The result of a play with perception and mirrors, the view from the window evokes telescopic visions, the specular reflections of still waters and the roundness of the earth. As the viewer is immersed in blurred marine currents and embarks on a voyage into the depths of oceanic memories, reality and fiction converge while myths past and present emerge.
Born in London to a Dutch mother and an Ethiopian father, Eshetu’s youth was marked by divergent multicultural contexts. After obtaining a degree in Communication Design from the North East London Polytechnic (1981), Eshetu spent most of his professional life based in Rome, where he soon establishing himself as a leading video artist. Since then, his work has been presented internationally.
Theo Eshetu was artist in residence of the Cultural Academy Tarabya in Istanbul from October to December 2016 and from September to November 2017. Eshetu was once again artist in residence of the Cultural Academy Tarabya from July to August 2018.
During the Mahalla Festival in Istanbul 2018 Theo Eshetu presented the video Atlas Fractured at SALT for the first time.
İstiklal Caddesi No:8, Beyoğlu
opening January 22, 6 pm
January 23 – March 9, 2019