“Senses of Time”: an exhibition co-organized by LACMA and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art (2016-17)

Brave New World I, by Theo Eshetu

“Senses of Time” is a series of films and video-based contemporary artworks by six artists from the global African diasporas. In each case the contributors invite their audiences to consider the various tensions, contradictions and ambiguities that can exist between personal and political time, ritual and technological time, and corporeal and mechanical temporalities.

Un Ballo in Maschera, by Yina Shonibare MBE (RA)
A still from the film “Un Ballo in Maschera” [“Masked Ball”] – an installation by Yinka Shonibare MBE (RA). Image courtesy of Yinka Shonibare and James Cohan Gallery, New York. Source: The Washingtonian.
The following six film and video-based installations  feature as part of a new touring exhibition, organised by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington DC:

  • Sammy Baloji‘s project “Mémoire” [“Memory”] examines the themes of memory and forgetting and is set within the socio-political context of postcolonial de-industrialisation. For much of the film, a dancer (the renowned Congolese dancer-choreographer Faustin Linyekula) can be seen dancing amongst ruins. Baloji states that the 5-minute film is meant to symbolise:

“…the story of politicians and the working classes…of those in power and the work of those who are governed. It is also the story of a body that moves among the ruins of what was once the heart of the DR Congo.”
– Sammy Baloji (cited by Milbourne et. al. 2015: 78)

  • Theo Eshetu‘s film features a kaleidoscopic art installation that examines the convergence of space and time in relation to the past, present and future.
  • Moataz Nasr’s work  “The Water” focuses on identities distorted by the march of time.
  • Berni Searle‘s artistic ccontribution features ancestral family portraits being blown about in the wind as a way of representing the “slippages and fragility of time” aligned with issues of identity.
  • The film “Un Ballo in Maschera” by Yinka Shonibare MBE (RA) features a lavish and ornately decorative ballroom scene with masked dancers dressed in the signature ‘Dutch-wax’ patterned fabrics that have become a major feature of his conceptual and performance-based art installations over several decades.
  • Sue Williamson‘s artwork – a 36-minute video projection, titled “There’s Something I Must Tell You ” – considers inter-generational dialogues.

The artists and curators responsible for bringing these works into dialogue with one another took Laura Mark’s concept of “the skin of the film” as an important insight for developing their creative responses to the theme of time.

Through pacing, sequencing, looping, layering, and mirroring, diverse perceptions of time are embodied and expressed throughout each work, as illustrated in the short YouTube film trailer (below):

For further information about all the aforementioned artworks and the exhibition tour, please see the article “Senses of Time: Video and Film-based Arts of Africa” by Karen E. Milbourne, Mary Nooter Roberts, and Allen F. Roberts in African Arts 48, no. 4 (Winter 2015): 72–84.

Brave New World I, by Theo Eshetu
Theo Eshetu’s Brave New World I. Courtesy the artist and Axis Gallery, New Jersey and New York. Photograph by Franko Khoury. Image source: Creative Planet Network.

The exhibition “Senses of Time: Video and Film-based Arts of Africa”  was co-curated by Karen Milbourne and Mary Nooter Roberts, and will be on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) until January 2017.

Web links and references:

LACMA website: http://www.lacma.org

MARKS, L. (2000) The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment and the Senses. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

MILBOURNE, K. E., NOOTER ROBERTS, M. and ROBERTS, A. F. (2015) “Senses of Time: Video and Film-based Arts of Africa.” In African Arts, Vol. 48, no. 4 (Winter 2015), pp. 72–84.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: