Theo Eshetu

Shapes of the Unknown

“I’m interested in the practice of freedom to explore the contours of the things that bind us.”

Visual artist Theo Eshetu has worked in media art since the early 1980s, exploring various formats that range from essay films to large-scale video installations. His work interrogates how electronic media shape and inform global perception, using visual material from anthropology, art history, scientific research, and religious iconography.

Eshetu, who grew up between England, Ethiopia, Senegal, and Italy, often questions forms of representation relating to cultural hybridity. His artistic research engages the interconnectedness of diverse world cultures. The relationship of African and European cultures in particular often inform Eshetuʼs work. “I think with photography and video but my themes are light and movement,” he says. “I am fascinated with the idea of time as stillness and eternity—and have explored these notions from numerous angles. I’m interested how practices of freedom explore the contours of the things that bind us.”

Eshetu’s works have been shown internationally at film festivals and major exhibitions including the Gwangju Biennale (2020), Shanghai Biennale (2017), Documenta14 in Athens and Kassel (2017), Dak’Art (2016), the Sharjah Biennale (20122), and the Venice Biennale (2011). He currently has works on view in the collections of MoMA, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto; the Newark Museum of Art; and Museo delle civiltà, Rome.

Theo Eshetu, Atlas Fractured (2017). Digital video, color, sound, 18 min. documenta 14, Athens Conservatoire
Theo Eshetu, Benin Bronze from Atlas Fractured, (2017)
Theo Eshetu, Judith Nefertiti.

As a mentor, Eshetu is seeking applicants with “a sense of wonderment to explore the limits of what is knowable.” An ideal project proposal  would “approach an idea with a will to explore its hidden properties, or to explore a given theme—political or personal—for a position of uncertainty, while delineating pathways that will enable a discovery.”

This mentorship extends to the use of different modes of expression, including sound, photography, video, painting, performance, dance, and more. The candidate should have a degree of technical know-how in order to mold ideas into an aesthetic experience. Estheu suggests that the proposed project should involve an experience to be explored physically or the engagement with a specific location to allow chance and intuition to be a guiding force. The collaboration will entail “a look at the self in the relation to the non-self: to see how we relate to other; to untangle misunderstandings; and explore new forms and languages to redefine what is known.”

Watch Theo Eshetu’s video statement: