The Aestheticized Interview with Ezra Wube, Ethiopia

By Kisito Assangni - Monday, November 5, 2018
The Aestheticized Interview with  Ezra Wube, Ethiopia

"I believe there is a natural educational aspect of art. Creativity provides plural ways to problem solve. It also establishes curiosity as a quintessential practice that makes us human, the urge to take risks or leap into the unknown and adapt".

Image:  Gela2, 2015, Ezra Wube


Ezra Wube (b. 1980, Ethiopia) is a mixed media artist based in Brooklyn, NY. His work references ideas of belonging in displacement and emplacement, the notion of past and present, the constant changing of place, and the dialogical tensions between "here" and "there". 

His exhibitions include Museum of the Moving Image, Queens, NY (2017); Gwangju Biennale, China (2018); The 13th Biennial de Lyon, Lyon, France (2015); Dak’Art 2014 Biennale, Dakar, Senegal (2014); The 18th International Festival of Contemporary Art SESC_Videobrasil, São Paulo, Brazil (2013); and At the Same Moment, Time Square Arts Midnight Moment, New York, NY (2013). 

Ezra received his BFA (2004) from Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA and an MFA (2009) from Hunter College, New York.

Since 2015 Ezra organizes Addis Video Art Festival, a platform for innovative international video art in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


 Gela2, 2015, Ezra Wube


ArtDependence (AD): Do you have any thoughts on whether that’s a responsibility of artists, reflecting our time is important within the political context? 

Ezra Wube  (EW): I feel like as an artist my primary responsibility is to make art. That doesn't mean that artists can't make or be other things. Artists are part of society. For me there is no separation between art and society. They are intertwined and I believe by striving to make true art, current desperate subjects will be reflected.

AD: What is your main interest as artist? What form of self-consciousness is applicable to the art-making?

EW: My main interest as an artist is relatabilty. In my experience art is universal but its perception can vary among cultures. As one who moved between geographies I understand that subjects are best communicated within a specific context, in a place and time.

There is a also a genuine sense of euphoria one experiences in calling and relating to place and time. In my creative process I find leeway in reflecting subjects accordingly.


Mela, 2012, Ezra Wube


AD: Do you feel that it’s important to convey your own beliefs and opinions within your art? Is there a philosophical element in your work?

EW: Each work I make I try to get out of myself, hoping that my ideas evolve in a spiral rather than a circle. In my creative process, projects are focused on specific subjects. Within that frame I use recurring utopic social ideas, not as an arena of propaganda for specific ideologies but to promote connectedness, possibilities and progressive ideas. 

My philosophy of art is to mix the old with the new. This in part may have to do with being a migrant, having continuous urges to understand, make sense and connect multiple realities of the new self and old self. Time and place are no longer fixed. For instance Ethiopia uses the Julian calendar which is 7 years behind the Gregorian calendar. Through mixing the old and the new I strive to conceive a third entity between past and present, here and there.

I work in stop action animation, after developing a painting I taking a picture of it and work the next frame on top of it. After the desired exploration, I edit the still images into animation. In this process there is no longer a singular authentic object but its changes have been documented. Documentation serves as an indexical vehicle connecting the past with the present. This process allows me to keep the past while moving forward.


Indamora, 2012, Ezra Wube


AD: What are you currently working on? Is there anything in particular that you’d like to get across through your work?

EW: Currently I'm at a residency program at the Children's Museum of Manhattan. I'm working on a public participatory animation and printmaking project exploring patters. 

This project is a means for individuals to share personal patterns which will become a collective pattern that is continuously reforming.

AD: What place does creativity have in education ? Do you view yourself as a creator?

EW: I believe there is a natural educational aspect of art. Creativity provides plural ways to problem solve. It also establishes curiosity as a quintessential practice that makes us human, the urge to take risks or leap into the unknown and adapt. 

I don't see myself as a creator but maybe as lucky in connecting, rearranging, reformatting, recycling, editing, and realizing existing ideas to bring them forward into present conversations.


Twilight Galaxies, 2017, Ezra Wube


AD: Do you think that by challenging conventional views, art can truly make a change in the public’s perception?

EW: Yes art has been making changes of public perception and it will continue to do so. I believe challenging established conventions is necessary in making it accessible, demystifying it and removing it from its pedestal, for it to be saved even for its own sake.

AD: How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?

EW:  My work evolved from a static medium (painting) into the moving (video or animation). I found the objectless of digital media freeing and felt that video is closer to life than painting.

In my art practice I hope to make more projects that are not only gallery and art institution dependent but can become realized within the public.I have also been interested in doing more collaboration, especially incorporating theatre.

AD: Is sophistication, aesthetic accomplishment in the eye of the beholder?

EW: I believe both aesthetic and sophistication are learnt though aesthetic is cultural and subjective.


Zemed1, 2016, Ezra Wube


AD: What do you think is the social role of art? How would you like to be remembered?

EW: The social role of art is to reflect, educate, question, liberate, and connect.

It would be nice to be remembered as bringing a moment of ease, and perhaps igniting possibilities.

AD: How does art school form ideas about art? Does it shape people into being certain types of artists?

EW: Art schools provide a space, time, education and community of support. Artists need these things throughout our entire career.

Art schools teach what history (mainly their own) has to offer and I believe it's up to each artist to pick and take what works for them. I don't feel like we are conditioned to a certain cliché. It is just more knowledge to gain, spectrum to expand.

AD: What do you think about the art world and art market? Do you accept that art is inherently an elitist activity?

EW: I feel optimistic about the art world, it's providing more opportunities for artists to participate exhibitions and residencies. But it's difficult for me to say about the art market, I never invested in it. Yes art can be elitist even with its intellect. How to make it reachable to the everyday person without being intrusive is another challenge.

AD: What’s the last great book you read? Any other thoughts/projects to share?

EW: I recently found a book about weeds by Richard Maybe “Weeds: in defende of nature’s most unloved plants”. It was mind opening, I’ll never see these plants the same way again. I’m currently conceiving the curatorial concept of the 3rd edition of Addis Video Art Festival, which I organize in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Kisito Assangni is a Togolese-French curator, art consultant, and farmer who studied museology at Ecole du Louvre in Paris. Currently living between UK, France and Togo, his research focuses primarily on psychogeography and the cultural impact of globalisation. He investigates the modes of cultural production that combine theory and practice. He inherently aims at going beyond the usual relations between artist, curator, institution, audience, and artwork in order to engage audiences in encounters with art that are unexpected, transformative, and fun. His discursive public programs and exhibitions have been shown internationally, including the Venice Biennale; ZKM Museum, Karlsruhe; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Centre of Contemporary Art, Glasgow; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Malmo Konsthall, Sweden; Torrance Art Museum, Los Angeles; Es Baluard Museum of Art, Palma, Spain; National Centre for Contemporary Arts, Moscow; Marrakech Biennale among others. Assangni has participated in talks, seminars, and symposia at numerous institutions such as the British Museum, London; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC; Ben Uri Museum, London; Pori Art Museum, Finland; Kunsthall 3.14, Bergen (Norway); Bamako Encounters Photography Biennial, Mali; Sala Rekalde Foundation, Bilbao; COP17 Summit, South Africa; Depart Foundation, Malibu (USA); Sint-Lukas University, Brussels; Motorenhalle Centre of Contemporary Art, Dresden (Germany); Kunsthalle Sao Paulo, Brazil; Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Ticino, Switzerland. Assangni is the founder of TIME is Love Screening (International video art program) and art advisor for Latrobe Regional Gallery in Victoria, Australia.

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