On Living ArchivesTsedaye Makonnen on Collaboration and Black Performance Practices

For me, and I think for anyone who is doing performance art, if they’re not feeling like they’ve been taken over by something, I don’t think they’re doing it right. It’s also all the other people who are wrapped up in it—your audience also experiences that shift.

In this episode

Caitlin Woolsey speaks with artist and curator Tsedaye Makonnen about her multidisciplinary studio, curatorial, and research-based practice. They discuss how Tsedaye’s sculptural installations and performances thread together her identity as a daughter of Ethiopian immigrants and a Black American woman to explore the transhistorical forced migration of Black communities across the globe.


Tsedaye Makonnen is a multidisciplinary artist whose studio, curatorial, and research-based practice are envisioned as intimate and protective sanctuaries for Black livesThe current recipient of a permanent large-scale public art commission for the city of Providence in Rhode IslandTsedaye is also preparing an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for fall 2023. She performed at the 2022 Venice Biennale for Simone Leigh’s Loophole Retreat, and has performed previously at the Venice Biennale, Art Basel Miami, Chale Wote in Ghana, El Museo del Barrio,  Fendika in Ethiopia, FIAP in Martinique, Queens Museum, the Smithsonian institutions in Washington, D.C., among others. In 2019, Tsedaye was a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow, and in fall 2022 she was in residence at the Clark as Futures Fellow. She is represented by Addis Fine Art, and lives between Washington, D.C., and London. 

This conversation was recorded on December 8, 2022.

Artworks and projects

Tsedaye Makonnen, The Astral Sea I, 2019. Blue satin/sheer fabric, acrylic mirror, adhesive. 17 ft x 11 in x 3 ft 7 in. Photo: Siren Arts Residency

Tsedaye Makonnen, Aberash: You Give Light, 2018. Performance with acrylic mirror, LED light bulbs, wire mesh, MDF, lighting wiring, 120 in x 12 in x 12 in. Photo: Joey Kennedy.

Tsedaye Makonnen, The Astral Sea II, 2020. Blue satin/sheer fabric, acrylic mirror, adhesive. 22 ft x 6 in x 4 ft 10 1/2 in. Photo: Tirop Sambu.