Illusion & spectacle: the video art of Theo Eshetu

London-born Ethiopian artist Theo Eshetu was showing recently at Tiwani Contemporary, his first solo exhibition in the UK. Working exclusively in video art, Eshetu combines the formal components of film with anthropological ideas, as a way of examining the notion of culture itself. He draws on his joint European and African upbringing in his work, combining themes and symbols from his dual inheritance. Eshetu lived in Ethiopia until the age of five.

Eshetu’s acclaimed 2014 work Anima Mundi, an immersive multimedia and video installation, is included in the show. Situated within a mirror box, a flickering globe of moving images “alludes both to the multiplicity of ways to perceive the world and the capacity of video to create illusions,” according the show’s curators. The viewer also becomes part of the installaton as their own image is reflected ad infinitum. The artist may have wanted to represent the idea of life as a spectacle, or could be alluding to the proliferation of images in contemporary life.

Works from The Mirror Ball Constellation (2013) are also featured in the exhibition. Eshetu created the work by placing a disco ball in the Polynesian Boat room at the Ethnological Museum in Berlin. The disco ball reflects photographs showing traditional masks and globes, but the images are partially covered with tiny pieces of mirror. The work could be seen as a comment on the preoccupation with performance and spectacle in the modern world. Eshetu currently lives and works in Berlin.

Photo: Theo Eshetu, The Mirror Ball Constellation (No.1). 2013-2015. 120 x 100cm. Photo courtesy of Tiwani Contemporary.