Elias Sime Weaves Connections Between Ancient Ethiopian Craft Traditions and Today’s Technology

Elias Sime Weaves Connections Between Ancient Ethiopian Craft Traditions and | RetinaComics

Photo by Lisa Whiting Photography. All images shared © Elias Sime, courtesy of GRIMM and James Cohan Gallery, shared with permission

Thousands of microchips, terminals, nails, letter keys, and lengths of wire transform into spectacular, monumental sculptures by acclaimed Ethiopian artist Elias Sime. In his exhibition Eregata እርጋታ at Arnolfini in Bristol, he highlights assemblages made from everyday materials, especially discarded technological detritus like computer keys, circuit boards, wires, and other electronic objects.

Sime draws on ancient Ethiopian carving, beading rituals, and weaving techniques to connect a rich artistic heritage to contemporary mass production and consumerism. The title, Eregata እርጋታ, is derived from the artist’s language, Amharic, the meaning of which Sime translates as tranquility, calmness, or serenity.

Though his undulating, patterned pieces may on one hand appear meditational, he plumbs the tension between our reliance on technology and our sense of well-being or ability to be present. “We struggle to stop and sleep because our brains are constantly stimulated by technology—we are constantly moving faster, not slower,” he says. He instead pushes back against the tide, emphasizing a practice that requires patience, discipline, and a painstaking attention to detail.

 

Detail of a red and white sculpture made from electronic wire and computer keys.

Detail of “Tightrope: Concave Triangle #2” (2020)

A series of dozens of anthropomorphic ceramic pots titled Bareness winds through the galleries, each vessel a slightly different shape or size, with arms outstretched or wearing scarves around their necks. This sprawling installation draws attention to Sime’s focus on collaboration, community, and togetherness.

The artist spends years on some of his pieces, collecting the type or amount of material he needs to complete one work, which often takes on the patterned appearance of large textiles. Eregata እርጋታ includes the monumental assemblage “Veiled Whispers,” which comprised part of a major installation he presented at the 2022 Venice Biennale, and many pieces from Sime’s ongoing Tightrope series span architectural surfaces, incorporating thousands of yards of wire.

From a distance, Sime’s architectonic sculptures are topographical, evocative of gridded city streets. But up close, the hidden pieces of the technologies that influence our everyday lives become apparent in intricate detail.

Eregata እርጋታ continues through February 18. Find more on Arnolfini’s website.

 

A red and white triangular sculpture made from electronic wire and computer keys.

“Tightrope: Concave Triangle #2” (2020). Photo by Jonathan de Waart

A large assemblage made from electronic pieces like keyboards, mechanical items, and maps.

Installation view of ‘Eregata እርጋታ’ at Arnolfini, Bristol, October 2023. Photo by Lisa Whiting Photography

A large-scale patterned tapestry-like assemblage, mostly green in color, made using eletronic wire and other electronic pieces.

“Tightrope: Behind the Processor #6” (2022). Photo by Jonathan de Waart

Two side-by-side images showing details of large-scale assemblages that have been made using electronic wires, nails, and other found materials.

Left: Photo by Lisa Whiting Photography. Right: Detail of “Tightrope: Behind the Processor #6” (2022). Photo by Jonathan de Waart

An installation view of dozens of terracotta pots with vaguely human forms.

Photo by Lisa Whiting Photography

A large-scale artwork, wide and separated into a green part on the left and pink part on the right, is made from electrical wire and nails.

“Veiled Whispers” (2021). Photo Thomas Barratt, courtesy of the artist and James Cohan Gallery

A detail of an assemblage made using electronic wire

Detail of “Veiled Whispers” (2021). Photo by Thomas Barratt

A large-scale assemblage made using tiny electronic pieces from computers and phones.

Photo by Lisa Whiting Photography

A detail of a large-scale assemblage made using tiny electronic pieces from computers and phones.

Photo by Lisa Whiting Photography

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