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Theo Eshetu

Atlas Fractured


Theo Eshetu
Born in London in 1958


Atlas Fractured




Colour video, 2/5


Running time: 18 min 44 s


Running time: 18 min 44 s


Purchase, Horsley and Annie Townsend Bequest, inv. 2019.6


International Contemporary Art

This work was inspired by a discarded banner from Berlin’s Ethnological Museum showing five masks, subtitled with the five regions represented in the museum’s collection: "Afrika, Amerika, Ozeanien, Asien, Europa". Theo Eshetu projects filmed portraits and footage of historical incidents drawn from various cultures, providing contrasting images of the world. The result is an experimental narrative that looks at myth, psychology, art and politics as tools that can help us understand and reconstruct a fragmented world. This video installation questions the representation of a “world allegory.”

Eshetu has declared: “Cultural identities cannot be fixed and defined. They are in constant flux, created and modelled by political projections, erected and destroyed by historical events, and fluctuate with the displacement of cultural objects and the migration of populations. We can only define the now – and the now is grotesque, uncertain, and burdened by the ghosts of the past. Yet there is also beauty in the present, a wish for new justices, a search for new harmonies, and, contrary to facile political tendencies, the recognition of and desire for hybrid states hitherto unknown.”

Exploring themes from anthropology, art history, scientific research and religious iconography, Eshetu’s innovative work redefines how electronic media shape identity and perception. World cultures, particularly the relationship between African and European cultures, often inform his work. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, his works were shown at major video art festivals, receiving awards in Berlin, Milan and Locarno. Atlas Fractured was presented at Documenta 14 in 2017.

© Theo Eshetu. Courtesy of the artist and Axis Gallery, New York and New Jersey

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