National Museum of African Art
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 seem easy to measure, but it can be challenging to understand. The six African artists featured in Senses of Time explore how time is experienced—and produced—by the body. Bodies stand, climb, dance, and dissolve in seven works of video and film—or “time-based”—art. Characters and the actions they depict repeat, resist, and reverse the 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 embodied and expressed.
History repeats itself as Yinka Shonibare MBE’s European ballroom dancers in sumptuous African-print fabric gowns dramatize the absurdities of political violence, while Sammy Baloji choreographs a haunting exploration of memory and forgetting in the ruins of postcolonial deindustrialization. Sue Williamson sensitively highlights the generational gaps wrought by time, while Berni Searle addresses genealogical time in one work as ancestral family portraits are tossed by the winds and focuses on the slippages and fragility of time and personal identity in another. Moataz Nasr’s work treads upon identities distorted by the march of time as Theo Eshetu draws us into a captivating kaleidoscopic space where past, present, and future converge.