Betelhem Makonnen _________ ቤተልሄም መኮንን     


small acts/

Betelhem Makonnen + Christina Coleman + Deborah Roberts + Tammie Rubin

small acts

small acts is an exhibition of various mixed media works–including collage, drawing, sculpture, video, and photography–by four Austin-based artists. Betelhem Makonnen, Christina Coleman, Deborah Roberts, and Tammie Rubin. To change one's future, to change perception, or even how we treat others is all a result of a small act. The artworks on view range from investigations of black existence through body, object, beauty, childhood and familial narratives, fugitive perceptual experiences, and time. While each artist's aesthetic approach is different, they are united by their faith in the power of small acts to guide and reimagine our everyday existence.

For Coleman and Rubin, the small act is in the recognition of the everyday. Both artists look at how mass-produced everyday objects transcend banality. Coleman’s media inventory includes dominoes, Oreo cookies, and synthetic hair. She presents works that situate these seemingly insignificant objects amidst spaces that hold great value. For instance, Coleman draws parallels between entities in cosmic space and Oreo cookies. Her interest lies in the interplay between the small and the vast, and how the former has the potential to give meaning to the latter. Within her work, dominoes become ceramic vessels and Oreo cookies are transformed into lunar phases. Rubin’s Always & Forever (ever, ever) series comprises conical groupings that reference objects of power, fraternity, anonymity, pageantry, absurdity, and belief. The sculptures are multi-part porcelain casts of recognizable consumer forms that reference hoods, headdresses, hats, and helmets. From the Ku Klux Klan and the Catholic Brothers of the Nazarene hoods, dunce caps, wizard hats, to west African Headdresses, medieval helmets, and the cone-wearing figures in Hieronymus Bosch paintings, these intimate ensembles are suspended within familiarity, uncertainty, and foreboding.

Makonnen and Roberts seek to disrupt perceptions. They believe their small acts and gestures can provoke radical new possibilities for perception and being. Makonnen’s artistic line of inquiry lingers in spaces of virtual conjunction accessed through paradoxes and feedback loops. Working with video, photography, and installations, she focuses on questions of perception, presence, and place while navigating within the trans-temporal and trans-locative topology of her diasporic consciousness. Her work seeks material equivalences that reflect a conjugated present, recognizing the future and the past as forms of the present, present in the present. The hand is always present. All of the above informs Makonnen to create a perceptual language that challenges normative structures of visuality and binary thinking in our cultural contexts. Roberts combines found and manipulated images with hand-drawn and painted details to create hybrid figures. These figures often take the form of young girls and increasingly Black boys, whose well-being and futures are equally threatened because of the double standard of boyhood and criminality that is projected on them at such a young age.

The works in this exhibition speaks to the notion of small acts in our lives that change how we are perceived and how those perceptions guide us in our everyday life.

grayDUCK Gallery

Sightlines Magazine
DUCKblind Podcast

Beyond What We See.
One upon a time.
Once upon a future


Betelhem Makonnen

Beyond What We See. One upon a time. Once upon a future

Les Abattoirs, Musée, Toulouse France
May 19, 2021 - September 9, 2021

This exhibition brings together African artists who all look at the question of transmission in contemporary societies, going beyond Africa and echoing in France and the rest of the world.

Instant knowledge and technological know-how are two forces that have radically changed what it means to live and exist today. The consequences of these phenomena have picked up speed since the creation of the Internet in 1989. As the Bangladeshi writer Shumon Basar said: “Contemporary reality is often ahead of our ability to describe it”. The rapid speed of change seems to be overtaking our capacity to integrate it, deal with it, and understand its implications. Broadly speaking, contemporary art is a mechanism for confronting us with ideas that have the power to open up new ways of thinking.

The Au-delà des apparences exhibition begins with the following question: what role did orality play yesterday, does it play today, and will it play tomorrow?The exhibition’s poetic starting point comes from a remark made by Senegalese filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambéty, in an interview in La grammaire de ma grand’mère (1996) by Jean-Pierre Bekolo, a Cameroonian director. It reminds us that things exist beneath the surface (“au-delà des apparences”), where there is no antagonism or incoherence. And so, should we start to tell a story with “once upon a time”, what if we changed it to “once upon a time to come”?

Including works by Meriem Bennani (Morocco), Contemporary And -C& (Germany), Amira Hanafi (United-States) Nicène Kossentini (Tunisia), Betelhem Makonnen (Ethiopia), Bhavisha Panchia (South Africa), Fatimah Tuggar, (Nigeria), and Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa (Scotland).

Curators: Missla Libsekal (Ethiopia/Canada) and Annabelle Ténèze, director of Les Abattoirs

Under the framework of Saison Africa 2020-2021. Les Abattoirs is delighted to be participating in Season Africa 2020-2021, whose general commissioner is N’Gone Fall.

Focusing on fifty-four states from the African continent, the aim of this season is to present viewpoints from civil society on the African continent and from its diaspora.

Les Abattoirs

Saison Africa 2020
Contemporary And -C&
Le Monde
Fomo Vox

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