MEKDES W. SHEBETA

posted in: Artists 2018 | 0

Mekdes W. Shebeta: Drop, to fetch the top,
Performanssi
Friday 21.9. at 21:00
Viinatehdas, Manilla, Itäinen Rantakatu 64

Wasn’t it green? Wasn’t it supposed to be green? Why not green? Where is the green?

Mekdes W Shebeta (b. 1967) was born in Ethiopia, has lived in Kenya and now living and working in Norway. She has studied fine art in Addis Ababa, interior architecture in Nairobi, and Bergen Academy of Art and Design. She has shown her works in solo and group exhibitions in Germany, Ethiopia, Kenya, Norway, and Sweden.

Mekdes W. Shebeta, interviewed by Terese Longva and Kurt Johannessen

You often work with time-based art. Do have any thoughts about that, in comparison with, for example, art that is more object-based?

For me it all started from just a talent for art, then I became an illustrator under Communist censure – then eventually a painter and sculptor. Art for me later became a commercial and a survival tool.  I moved from contemporary three-dimensional installations to relational aesthetics, as a socially engaged artist. And finally, a storyteller on time-based art. All these artistic titles have their unintentional roles, where the creativity flows from one monotone base, frame or routine to another. Working within the artist type or tattle pushes the art into controlled spaces, where the titles pin the artwork down to narrow contexts. To highlight essential subjects, there should be the flexibility of space, time and way of narration.

Are you working with any particular themes or issues in your practice at this time?

My artwork as text, sound and video works, installations, performance, employ a quirky sensibility to investigate the painful consequences of migration. The techniques of storytelling and narration seek to overcome the traditional formats of the documentary. The documentaries address the African side of immigration, both regarding rural to the urban movement as well as the struggle to cross international borders within Africa, and all the way on to the doors of Europe. I have found parallels in how are rural migrants treated in African cities with how are the African refugees received in European cities. There is hospitality on the one hand, but there is also hostility and the sense that these people should go home. Most would prefer to “go home” if extreme poverty, war, and conflict were not standing in their way.

When one leaves a place to improve or save one’s life (at times the same thing) and arrives somewhere else, that is usually permanent. There is no return, for the place one has left changes much as the person who goes away. Through my installation/performance, I aim to speak about loss, hope, the pain of starting from scratch, and the struggle for recognition. No matter if someone flees a life of poverty in the countryside for the city, or leaves his or her country to seek protection and a better life in another region — it will always lead to irrevocable changes. Abilities become worthless; independent persons become supplicants. Each element in my installations has a meaning: signs of the journey that never ends once one sets off; expectations and promises that prove to be false. I speak about these universal experiences in image metaphors and in the language of those who never reach their destination.

Can you share thoughts about your participation in History Will Be Kind to Me, for I Intend to Perform It -project? Did this project open up a new mode of investigation for you, or was it already part of your methodology? To be more specific, the project has a very concrete problematic, is this a new way of working for you?

Even though the project’s collaborating system will be a new mod for me I can say in some ways I have been already working on the part of the methodology, and I believe I will understand more about the project in the process of working with the rest of participants.