Betelhem Makonnen_________ ቤተልሄም መኮንን     


unsettling narratives


unsettling narratives
Artpace Summer 2022 International 
Artist-in-Residence Program
445 North Main, San Antonio TX

Exhibition: July 21–Sep. 11, 2022
Artists reception and talk: July 21, 2022, 6–9pm

unsettling narratives is the culmination of Betelhem Makonnen’s residency– a meditation on presence and place in relationship to memory and history within non-linear time. The works, made up of still and moving images, text, and installation, transport the viewer to a here and now that is multiple and existing in suspension within an in-between space of continuous arrival or departure, and both at once.

figures at sea (a ruttier* for unsettling narratives in diasporic time, again and again, future/present/past selves) is the central piece that grounds the room. The source for the large-scale image in this multi-part installation was found in her family’s archive and is of Makonnen and her youngest brother at Santa Monica Beach, California, in 1983, the year they began their life in the West. The installation also includes a video documenting a performance done with Makonnen and her family on the Texas coast during the residency. In the footage, the viewer sees them make an offering to Iemanjá, the Candomlé goddess of the sea, who’s African and Afro-diasporic believers consider to be a powerful protective mother of all living things and a mirror of the world. The waves throughout the video are a time changing space that are consistently occurring yet slow down and speed up depending on our experience with them. They become a signal of suspension, an in-between space.

Makonnen continues to shift time and space by bringing remnants from the performance into the gallery. The experience of sea and shore is repeated and felt throughout the gallery– ten 12 x 16-inch image fragments come out of the installation’s large-scale image like a wave on the adjacent walls, a photo diptych depicts Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach, Makonnen’s home for thirteen years, as well as the sound of the ocean and a warm yellow glow which fills the room. 

With unsettling narrative, Makonnen is re-ordering and re-arranging a story without a middle or an end, but one that is constant and transforming continuously. She invites the viewer to navigate outside linear time and become a time traveler who uses all senses and tenses to see. 

* “An oral ruttier is a long poem containing navigational instructions that sailors learned by heart and recited from memory. The poem contained the routes and tides, the stars and maybe the taste and flavor of the waters, the coolness, the saltiness; all for finding one’s way at sea. Perhaps, too, the reflection and texture of the seabed, also the sight of birds, the directions of their flights.” Brand, Dionne, “Ruttier for the Marooned in the Diaspora” from her book A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging. Toronto: Random House, pg. 212.

Curator: Andy Campbell, Associate Professor of Critical Studies at the University of Southern California’s Roski School of Art and Design.


Artist Talk with Resident artists Hellen Ascoli, Jonesy, Betelhem Makonnen and curator Andy Campbell

Gallery Notes

San Antonio Magazine

Originally commissioned and produced by Artpace San Antonio.
Installation images credits: Beth Devillier.

for the time being


for the time being
Texas Woman’s University
Division of Visual Arts – East | West Galleries
300 Texas St
Denton, TX

Exhibition: Jan 18 - Feb 18, 2022
Artists reception: Feb. 3 from 5 - 8 pm
Artists Panel Lecture: Feb. 3, from 6 - 7 pm

Texas Woman’s University’s East and West Galleries (Division of Visual Arts) is excited to announce for the time being, an exhibition curated by faculty at TWU that features works by prominent artists Annette Lawrence, Betelhem Makonnen, Kristen Cochran, and Alicia Eggert. The Artists Panel Lecture will bring together all artists from the show for a discussion centered around themselves and their art, and will conclude with a Q&A with audience members. for the time being centers around each artist’s unique relationship with time. Whether embedded in their working process or surfacing as a message, the works are inherently philosophical as they relate to the construct of time in unique and innovative ways. This manifests through expression reflected in the duality and multitude of experience which encompasses linear and circular, analog and digital, light and dark, life and death. Some works nod to the ways in which the pandemic restructured the ways we record, perceive, and have lost time. These losses carry a sense of grief that is both personally and universally felt. Other times, the works reflect the phenomenological construction of the natural world as we process being a part of the whole.

Annette Lawrence will be showcasing a new set of graphite, ink and paper drawings that examines and records the process in experiencing grief and loss. Betelhem Makonnen will be showing video installations and sculptures that examine the movement of time and space, the weight of time, and a sense of being part of a larger collective through language. Kristen Cochran’s work for the exhibition will include new sculptures and works on paper created at a recent residency that reference time as a construct through a series of processes that recall the body, rest, notions of labor and social expectations. Alicia Eggert will be including a large neon sculpture that expresses the way words can be an image that carries meaning and place, and a piece that includes live flowers that will decay during the run of the exhibition displaying the passage of time across organic material.

Curatorial team: Caitlin Spencer and Julie Libersat
Technical Director & Gallery Manager: Blake Weld

for the time being Panel Discussion Annette Lawrence, Betelhem Makonnen, Kristen Cochran, and Alicia Eggert with moderators Megan Griffiths and Caitlin Spencer

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