In 2015, the South African artist William Kentridge donated 10 Drawings for Projection (1989-2011) to the Eye Filmmuseum. These ten short animation films marked Kentridge’s breakthrough on the international art scene. Illuminating the eventful history of South Africa, these films will be shown at Eye this summer as part of a larger installation. Also included in the exhibition is the film installation O Sentimental Machine (2015), featuring historical footage of Russian revolutionist Leon Trotsky. The exhibition takes place during the Holland Festival, for which William Kentridge is Associate Artist.
The generous donation followed the exhibition William Kentridge – If We Ever Get to Heaven at Eye in the summer of 2015. The artist was impressed by the quality of that presentation and the richness of the Eye collection. As a gesture of appreciation, he decided to donate all works from the series 10 Drawings for Projection to the museum.
A recurring theme in the series – with films such as Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City After Paris (1989), Felix in Exile (1994) and Other Faces (2011) – is the recent history of South Africa. The starting point for the animations is a series of charcoal sketches that Kentridge draws, redraws, erases and thus sets in motion. They allude to events such as the Sharpeville massacre, the release of Nelson Mandela and the abolition of Apartheid. 10 Drawings for Projection (1989-2011) marked Kentridge’s breakthrough on the international art scene as an engaged artist with a deep concern for developments in his native country. ‘I have never tried to make illustrations of apartheid,’ he said in an interview, ‘but the drawings and films are certainly spawned by and feed off the brutalized society left in its wake. I am interested in a political art, that is to say, an art of ambiguity, contradiction, uncompleted gestures and uncertain endings.’
leon trotsky in front of the camera
O Sentimental Machine, made by Kentridge for the fourteenth Istanbul Biennial (2015), is a remarkable film installation featuring five projections. It reconstructs the office of the revolutionist Leon Trotsky, who appears in various historical film fragments. For these, Kentridge selected material from the Eye collection, including footage of Trotsky delivering a lecture on the future of communism. From the same collection, Kentridge took fragments from home movies by Nicholas II, Russia’s last czar. The exhibition also features a number of large wall tapestries that Kentridge produced at a local weaving mill in Johannesburg. His motifs include collages of maps and characters from his work.
The exhibition is accompanied by a public programme of films, interviews and lectures; William Kentridge will attend as a guest and interviewee.
about the artist
Born in Johannesburg in 1955, William Kentridge studied Politics and African Studies at university, and then fine art at the Johannesburg Art Foundation. He also studied mime and theatre in Paris. He made his name as a multimedia artist with his remarkable animation films, charcoal drawings and installations composed of film, sound, music and sculptural objects. Kentridge succeeds with tremendous ease in bringing together various media in a unique body of work. As an opera and theatre director, Kentridge has also worked with the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Royal Opera House in London, and Holland Festival. His art has been exhibited at Documenta (Kassel), Tate Modern (London), Museum of Modern Art (New York) and the Venice Biennale
During the Holland Festival (29 May - 23 June, Amsterdam), William Kentridge is acting as Associate Artist. A selection from the programme:
The Head & the Load
Theater Amsterdam, 2931 May, opening performance
William Kentridge’s latest theatre production, which centres on the nearly two million African victims used by the British, French and Germans as porters during the First World War – a tragic story that has remained largely untold. In this unique performance, Kentridge brings together an international ensemble cast of performers, including dancers, singers and musicians, shadow play and film projections.
Enyangeni / Ursonate
Frascati, 8 June, 20:30
William Kentridge offers his interpretation of the Ursonate. Kentridge took the celebrated sound poem from 1932 by German poet Kurt Schwitters as the starting point for a cheerful performance in which he calls in a number of very special performers.
Muziekgebouw, 16 June, 20:30
Vaudeville, opera and film come together in an absurdist-poetic ‘ciné concert’ by William Kent- ridge and composer Philip Miller. Paper Music is the product of twenty-five years of collaboration between Kentridge and Miller and connects several themes from their collaborative work.
Work from The Centre for the Less Good Idea
Frascati, 7-9 June
The lectureperformance Defence of the Less Good Idea by William Kentridge is an ode to daring to deviate from an initial idea and embracing the moment. Followed by a performance by Blind Mass Orchestra and the dance performance Requiem Request, based on Ravel’s Bolero, with the South African Isicathamiya choir Phuphuma Love Minus.
For a complete overview of the programme with and related to William Kentridge during Holland Festival, see www.hollandfestival.nl.
Project I Am
Kentridge's films are unique and original, but the broken stories behind them are the stories of many. Even today, voices are lost in South African townships, where the history of the country echoes forever. When Dutch filmmakers Miriam Pieneman, Anne Simmers and Monique Groenewoud visited the country, they were inspired. It was the start of Project I Am, a township film school. I Am offers underprivileged young people a medium to tell their story. The films that result from this are often pure, raw and yet hopeful. The students also made a film for Eye, to show how the themes of Kentridge's work are still alive.