From 25 April till 30 August EYE presented If We Ever Get to Heaven, featuring work by the celebrated South African artist William Kentridge (Johannesburg, 1955). Kentridge achieved renown with his remarkable animation films, charcoal drawings and installations composed of film, sound, music and sculptural objects, and he is also active as an opera and theatre director. It was the first time that such an extensive exhibition featuring a number of installations by Kentridge has been presented in the Netherlands.
A major recurring theme in the work of William Kentridge is the charged history of his native South Africa. Perhaps unsurprisingly for the son of two prominent anti-Apartheid lawyers, Kentridge succeeds in capturing this conflict in his work in all its complexity. Often applying animations and simple pre-cinema techniques, Kentridge sketches a world in which political reality plays a key role. Forms, and hence meanings, are subject to constant change in Kentridge’s work, as is evident not only in his animations, drawn and erased in charcoal, but also in his kinetic objects, collages, drawings and other works. As Kentridge himself put it, his work is about “....taking sense and deconstructing it, taking nonsense and seeing if sense can be constructed from it”.
His highly diverse body of work includes observations of and reflection on the world, constantly revealing its ambiguities. In the process, he is able to raise his work above the political conflict in his native country and give it wide human meaning and significance. Kentridge: “I have never tried to make illustrations of Apartheid, 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.”
Entitled More Sweetly Play the Dance, the new work made by Kentridge specially for EYE is a 45-metre-long frieze that depicts an endless parade of figures who collectively form a kaleidoscopic image of people on the move. These are pictures that hit us every day through the media, of people fleeing from hunger, war and sickness, which Kentridge sublimates into an impressive procession that evokes their sadness yet also conveys their vitality. In addition to this new work, EYE presented the impressive film installation on eight screens I Am Not Me, the Horse Is Not Mine from 2008, based on The Nose, a short story by Russian writer Nikolai Gogol from 1836. Also on view is Other Faces (2011), the tenth and most recent work from the series Drawings for Projection (1989-2011).
about the exhibition
Alongside More Sweetly Play the Dance there were two other installations on display in the exhibition, namely I Am Not Me, the Horse Is Not Mine (2008) and Other Faces (2011). The impressive film installation I Am Not Me, the Horse Is Not Mine is based on The Nose, a short story by Russian writer Nikolai Gogol from 1836. For this piece, Kentridge found inspiration in the constructivist experiments of the Russian avant-garde, revolutionary texts and the opera that Shostakovich based on The Nose.
Other Faces is the tenth and most recent work in the series Drawings for Projection (1989-2011). In this series, Kentridge films his own charcoal drawings while effacing and redrawing these. Layer upon layer, history is being overwritten.
about William Kentridge
William Kentridge studied Politics and African Studies at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and art at the Johannesburg Art Foundation. In Paris he studied mime and theatre at L’école internationale de théâtre de Jacques Lecoq (1981-1982). He was one of the founders of the Free Filmmakers Co-op in Johannesburg in 1988 and has also worked since 1992 with the South African Handspring Puppet Company. In addition, Kentridge is also active as an opera and theatre director for renowned opera houses and theatre festivals such as the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Royal Opera House in London and the Avignon Theatre Festival. Kentridge has also collaborated on a number of occasions with the Dutch National Opera and the Holland Festival, on productions such as Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in 2003 and Schubert’s Winterreise in 2014. During the forthcoming Holland Festival, Kentridge will direct Alban Berg’s opera Lulu. For this production for the Dutch National Opera, Kentridge drew inspiration from the silent films of the 1920s and 30s in the EYE collection.
Kentridge has exhibited his visual work at Documenta in Kassel (2002 and 2012), the Tate Modern in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Albertina in Vienna and the Venice Biennale.
In the following video, William Kentridge is in conversation with Pierre Audi:
More Sweetly Play the Dance has been made in response to an invitation and with support from lichtsicht – Projection Biennale, Bad Rothenfelde and EYE Filmmuseum.
Director of Exhibitions: Jaap Guldemond
Associate Curator: Marente Bloemheuvel
Project Managers: Claartje Opdam, Sanne Baar
Technical Production: Indyvideo, Utrecht
Installation: Landstra & De Vries, Amsterdam
Graphic Design: Joseph Plateau, Amsterdam
Light Design: Theatermachine, Amsterdam (with thanks to Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam)
Accompanying the exhibition was a lavishly illustrated publication entitled More Sweetly Play the Dance. It documents the creation of his new work in words and pictures, with an essay by William Kentridge. More Sweetly Play the Dance is published by EYE and nai010publishers, and is for sale in the EYE shop. Language: English. Price: €19.50.