Theo Eshetu is known for his pioneering work across cinema, television and videoart. Since the early 1980s, Eshetu has combined the formal components of electronic arts with anthropological ideas to re-examine the ethnographic gaze.
His manipulation of time, light and sound leads to works that draws on themes and images from the artist's dual European and African background to examine identity constructions and the notion of culture itself. 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.
His videos and essay films have been presented film festival (Venice, London, Berlin, Mill Valley, Milan) world wide but he is known primarily for his video often spectacular video Installations. (Martin Gropius Bau, LACMA, ICP, Baltimore Museum of Art). He presented 5 video installations at the Musée Ethnogque de Genève in 2018 and has held gallery shows in Rome, Berlin, London and New York.
Eshetu was a featured artist in Documenta 14 and participated at the Biennials of Venice (2010), Shanghai (2016), Bamako (2019) and Gwangju (2020). He is a recipient of the DAAD fellowship in 2013 and fellowship at the Smithsonian in 2021. His art works have been collected by, MoMa, Tate Britain, The Smithsonian Institute, Royal Ontario Museum and The Montreal Museum of Fine Art among others.
Theo Eshetu | select exhibitions
The Sum of All Parts | Museum of Modern Art | New York
Ghost Dance | The Gwangju Biennale | Korea
The Sorcerer’s Burden: Contemporary Art and the Anthropological Turn | The Contemporary Austin | Texas
Faces and Places | Solo Show | Akbank Sanat | Turkey
ATLAS FRACTURED | Documenta 14 | Kassel, Germany and Athens, Greece
Theo Eshetu | select works
The Phi Phenomenon | 2018
Approaches the universe of cultic and religious objects from the African world, with artifacts including cults, animistic worship and ancestor worship. The rapid stream of images and sonic overlay transports an ecstatic and surreal power. Through the larger-than-life scale, the objects acquire a dynamic and subjective independence, quite detached from a museum's classification.
Atlas Fractured | 2017
Theo Eshetu’s video work Atlas Fractured, produced for Documenta 14, is an experimental narrative that presents myth, psychology, art, and politics as realms that can help us integrate a fragmented world.
In Atlas Fractured, Eshetu contrasts the Enlightenment notion of apprehending the world via Reason with the Platonic view of Ideas and Appearances screened against a cave wall, and presents his filmic interaction as a third way, grounded in the ancient Greek notion of the trilogy as a key paradigm in the pursuit of knowledge, in which the resolution is open to mystery.
The Return of the Axum Obelisk | 2009
A complexly stratified 15 screen video piece, not only in form but also in content, brings together mythological, religious, political and aesthetic issues. Using a visual language reminiscent of traditional Ethiopian iconoclastic paintings, Eshetu narrates the reestablishment of an equilibrium, which could be likened to the seesaw of the Past Perfect and the Future Perfect.