Poems I Used to Kentridge_march_201  Poems I Used to Know is on view at Volte Gallery, Mumbai,...

Poems I Used to Kentridge_march_201  Poems I Used to Know is on view at Volte Gallery, Mumbai, until
Poems I Used to Kentridge_march_201  Poems I Used to Know is on view at Volte Gallery, Mumbai, until
Poems I Used to Kentridge_march_201  Poems I Used to Know is on view at Volte Gallery, Mumbai, until
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Transcript of Poems I Used to Kentridge_march_201  Poems I Used to Know is on view at Volte Gallery, Mumbai,...

  • The studio as a self-portrait William Kentridge


    domus 16 March 2013


    The artist in his studio

    A nearly five-minute-long video by William Kentridge Drawing Lesson 47 (Interview for New York Studio School), 2010 shows the South African artist interviewing himself. Twin Kentridges sit across from each other as one of them asks the other, Can you describe your life as an artist? Alright, can you rather say what it was that you did today to give us some sense of how you fill your hours between waking and sleeping every day? And when the artist-self begins to try and answer the ambitious question, his voice is muffled by the condescending interviewer-self, who addresses the camera to say Hes not saying anything thats interesting at all. I mean hes not talking about truth or truth and beauty or about mystic truths that are revealed by the artist. Hes talking about mayonnaise Tabasco sauce. The playful and self-referential video, which can be viewed as an interrogation between two components of a self or as a fractured internal discourse carried out in the intimate space of an artists studio, exposes the ambiguities, multivalencies and contradictions that are at the heart of Kentridges works. The pieces rely on and celebrate the viewers

    sense-making capacity, and make the process of seeing their inherent theme. Informed by the absurd, Kentridges freeform artistic technique, his thinking with hands, with its constant erasure and redrawing propels objects into action and transformation against a background of cultural and historical references stories of injustice as time gets revised in the space of his studio. Domus India interviewed the artist before his solo-exhibition Poems I Used to Know opened at Volte Gallery in Mumbai on 6 February 2013. Following are some excerpts from the interaction:

    DOMUS INDIALast year in an article [Life brought to art, Financial Times, 17 August 2012], Hans Ulrich Obrist wrote that it is important to shape exhibitions as long-duration projects He was making a case for long-duration exhibitions.WILLIAM KENTRIDGEExhibitions staying up for a long time?DIYes, for years, and I was just drawing comparisons with how your work has progressed. It has been travelling around the world, and it has stayed in the cultural consciousness.

    William Kentridges interdisciplinary practice combines drawing, performance and animation to create works that hope to find meaning or sense in the world. The artist talks to Domus India about the studio as an important category in his art, the playfulness of his production process, and performing our lives

    ArtistWilliam Kentridge

    The studio as a self-portrait

    Top: Untitled (Portable Monuments), 2010. Photogravure, sugarlift aquatint with drypoint and burnishing, 42 x 48 cm (Edition of 30). Right: Drawings for No, IT IS, a triptych of three flipbook films, 2012. Opposite page: Nose (with strawberries), 2012. Handwoven woollen tapestry, 345 x 234 cm

    InterviewRoshan Kumar Mogali

  • The studio as a self-portrait William Kentridge


    domus 16 March 2013


    WKOf course; I mean I do understand that. The exhibition Five Themes in the end travelled for three years in nine different venues. So it was the same exhibition that was somewhere to be seen, not in the same tenure obviously. But I do understand that things need to sediment into a public consciousness rather than flash past. Obviously, long exhibitions are a treat for the artist; theyre difficult for the way institutions work, which rely on audiences coming back or a large footfall. DISo how do you think this affects the way the concerns with which I would look at your art now maybe not apartheid as much; maybe it transcends that and becomes an existentialWKYes, I think that they do. Theres always a great deal of what as an audience, the particular viewers Theres no general viewership but individuals that think with different focuses, look for different things, and not so much look for different things, but recognise different things that come towards them from the work. So when people were saying so all the work is about apartheid that is partly saying they have a need for the works to be about apartheid and it meets that need somewhere. () The works, some of them, are directly descriptive of the social situations in the city, of what the city looks like, whats been happening to its crowds. While on the inside, I feel theres a kind of continuum in the works. Me working in a studio or a drawing of the city and the crowds. In each case, there is something that happens in the studio that refers to the world outside. DIWe see the studio as a space of performance in your art.WKYes, it is a safe space for testing things out. Its a physical place for thinking. So I think that maybe I will walk for half an hour before I do the first drawing and think theoretically, walk around the suburbs, walk in the city. But in fact the walking all happens in the space of the studio and that becomes important the enclosure, the containment of it all.

    DIAnd then you bring it out. WKAnd then it comes out in different ways; but I do think that the studio is an important category.DIYouve also had a certain preoccupation with narrative the way you convert these stills into a progression.WKWell, the question with narrative is that narrative is about understanding process or a description of process something that starts at one point and changes, goes through a series of transformations at each different stage. So in that sense something to be described as narrative can also be described as an essential way of understanding how the world works and the need we have to construct possible narratives.DIIn most of your work, there are these diversions into history. Sometimes not specific to your personal history. Somehow they seem to be these appropriations. I mean that they take off from works of these rebel artists. Like [Alfred] Jarrys Ubu?WKThey come from, that they rip off that tradition, that they expand on it, theyre essays on it?DIRight.WKThey are new revolts in themselves? Well, theyre certainly not new revolts in themselves. There are new forces against which to press, and to explore what these old traditions mean in a contemporary context. Jarry at the moment now. Im not a writer, so its not like Im trying to be a new Alfred Jarry. The existing works whether a play, an essay or a piece of literature they are a starting place for a theory of reflection on the form, on the history, on the medium.DI A lot of your pieces are inspired from, you offer them as a tribute to George MlisWK() On the one hand, they are a series of films based on Mlis but for me they became much more a meditation about what happened in the studio. Thinking about Mlis not just as really a filmmaker but as an artist in a studio in the same way as Jackson Pollock and his action work. The studio as kind of a

    film set. Im thinking of that ongoing long question of the artist in the studio and the studio as a kind of self-portrait. That rather than just the phenomenons of the Mlis films. So you could see the films as take-offs, repetitions, different versions of the Mlis films or you can use the films to see Mliss films in a broader way of as broader questions themselves.DII see this pattern where you take off from somewhere. Is that important in your process?WKI think its a common stage. Yes, I think that all artists in a way, all the images theyve seen of art history sitting inside and whether its explicitly born from or implicitly from, its very much in the work that emerges. I dont know of any circumstance in which something emerges absolutely new. Because in a way all great artists, all historic artists have emerged in response to either their immediate predecessor or predecessors before them.DIWho are you looking at now? WKIm looking at German Expressionists from the 1920s.DI Anyone in particular?WKThere is a great German documentary called Berlin on a Sunday Sunday in Berlin Its a kind of German version of Man With a Movie Camera. So on the one hand, Im watching it with a view of a current project, which is the production of Alban Bergs opera Lulu [scheduled for 2015]. But on the other hand, Alban Bergs Lulu is a way of me getting into looking at a section of German Expressionist woodcuts related to Africa.DIOn the poster for The Nose, whats kheppi in the phrase Another Kheppi Ending?WKIts the Russian way of pronouncing the English word happy. Under Stalin, every film had to have a kheppi ending. If it did not have one, if it had an un-kheppi ending, it would be counter-revolutionary it was a revolutionary demand to have a

    DISo one sees this playfulness, these puns in your works Do you think about them a lot? Are these conscious choices that you make? WKNo, there are phrases that emerge, like the playful emerging of dreams. Theyre conscious in the sense for example, this drawing of a shell with the text In the Absence of the Real Thing. Now thats a drawing based on a little etching of Rembrandt which I wanted to buy but couldnt. So In the Absence of the Real Thing is a drawing of Rembrandts etching in the absence of Rembrandts etching. But Rembrandts etching is also in the absence of the real thing the shell it was drawn to depict. So in a way its acknowledging the three degrees of separation the drawing of an etching of a natural object. So there are phrases which come in from that.DIAnd the dictionary? WKWith the dictionary, an obsolete book is resuscitated by reuse, sending it back into paper. Theres an ongoing battle between the digital medium and the physical book. And in areas such as dictionaries and other reference books, they really are obsolete. So its a sense of a rescuing and a distraction of these old reference books at the same time.DII was reading Notes on Camp before this interview. And theres a