Senses of Time: Video and Film-Based Works of Africa

Hammer Building, Level 3
December 20, 2015–January 2, 2017
Still from Yinka Shonibare's "Un Ballo in Maschera", shows three European court dancers, but with their traditional 17th century European clothes made of vivid African print cloth.

Our hearts beat to the rhythms of biological time and continents drift in geological time, while we set our watches to the precision of Naval time. Time may be easy to measure, but it is challenging to understand. Five leading contemporary artists of Africa explore temporal strategies to convey how time is experienced—and produced—by the body. Bodies climb, dance, and dissolve in six works of video and film, or “time-based” art. Characters and the actions they depict repeat, resist, and reverse any expectation that time must move relentlessly forward.

Senses of Time invites viewers to consider tensions between personal and political time, ritual and technological time, bodily and mechanical time. Through pacing, sequencing, looping, layering, and mirroring, diverse perceptions of time are both embodied and expressed.

Yinka Shonibare’s European ballroom dancers in sumptuous African-print cloth gowns dramatize the absurdities of political violence as history repeats itself, while Sammy Baloji envisions choreographies of memory and forgetting in the haunted ruins of postcolonial deindustrialization. Berni Searle addresses genealogical time as ancestral family portraits are tossed by the winds and waves of generational loss, as well as the slippages and fragility of time and identity. Moataz Nasr’s work treads on personal identities distorted by the march of time, and Theo Eshetu draws us into a captivating kaleidoscopic space in which past, present, and future converge. 

This exhibition was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C.

All exhibitions at LACMA are underwritten by the LACMA Exhibition Fund. Major annual support is provided by Kitzia and Richard Goodman, with generous annual funding from Janet Chann and Michael Irwin in memory of George Chann, Louise and Brad Edgerton, Edgerton Foundation, Emily and Teddy Greenspan, Jenna and Jason Grosfeld, Lenore and Richard Wayne, and the Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation.

Still from Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball), Yinka Shonibare MBE, 2004, courtesy the artist and James Cohan Gallery, New York and Shanghai, © Yinka Shonibare MBE, all rights reserved, DACS/ARS, NY 2015; Bottom image: Still from Mémoire, Sammy Baloji, 2006, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, museum purchase, © Sammy Baloji, courtesy the artist and Axis Gallery, NY/NJ

About to Forget
Berni Searle
2005
A Matter of TIme
Berni Searle
2003
The Water
Moataz Nasr
2002
Brave New World II
Theo Eshetu
1999

From the Curators

Our hearts beat to the rhythms of biological time and continents drift in geological time, while we set our watches to the precision of Naval time. Time may be easy to measure, but it is challenging to understand. In Senses of Time: Video and Film-Based Works of Africa, which opened on December 20, five leading contemporary artists of Africa explore temporal strategies to convey how time is experienced—and produced—by the body. Bodies climb, dance, and dissolve...

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