William Kentridge Da Capo Venice Screening one
William Kentridge
Da Capo
Screening at La Fenice, Venice

William Kentridge was invited to make a projection on the fire screen of the Fenice opera theatre, which was primarily seen while the orchestra tuned up before each nights performance. His project – (REPEAT) from the beginning / Da Capo – features a series of sculptures rotated on a table by the artist, that on turning reveal their shape at certain points in their rotation. Art historian John Lloyd asks the artist about the project for Tate Etc.

John Lloyd
How did you make the sculptures for the screening (REPEAT) from the beginning / Da Capo?

William Kentridge
The sculptures are mostly made out of wire and paper. The principle of constructing them is it needs monocular vision, because you have to see a three-dimensional object as a two-dimensional shape. So it’s the opposite of Renaissance painting where you have a flat image trying to look three-dimensional. So it’s kind of dependent on a camera’s viewpoint.

John Lloyd
You have done other work with stereoscopes…

William Kentridge
This project is like an anti-stereoscope. If you actually had to make a stereoscopic image of the sculpture, then its visual coherence would disappear. You would see it as this chaos of different planes. The anti-stereoscopy that makes it work. The way the stereoscope works, you have two flat images and you make them deep. Here, you’ve got a deep image and you make it flat.

William Kentridge with his works for Da Capo

William Kentridge with his works for Da Capo

John Lloyd
Do you think the music helps transform the sculpture?

William Kentridge
The works had to be something that wouldn’t be ‘destroyed’ by an orchestra tuning; it wouldn’t need the coherence of a musical composition you would have in a narrative, so it needs to both have an element of randomness. It also had to be non-narrative – but allowing the images to come into ‘being’ – to be recognisable as forms, and then to disappear.  So there’s a lot of change from chaos to order and order back to chaos. Da Capo.

John Lloyd
Yes. But every night when they play, the orchestra is going to play a different tune.

William Kentridge
Well, they’ll be tuning up, so the shape of it will be the specifics of when they hit a note and when they don’t.

John Lloyd
Do you think there’s any theme connection between the martial nature of singing and some of your interest in war?

William Kentridge
I haven’t thought of them as particularly military singers, but when you do see them all together, they could be shouting as well as singing.

John Lloyd
And are those portraits of specific musical people – such as Mahler?

William Kentridge
There are no specific portraits. However when we do the production of Gogol’s The Nose for the Metropolitan Opera next year, I’m going to make specific portraits of Stalin, Shostakovich and a Gogol head.

John Lloyd
How big is the nose going to be?

William Kentridge
Well, when it’s a projection, it can be 17 metres by 10 metres. When it’s worn on the stage, it will be anything from a metre and a half to two inches.

William Kentridge Da Capo Venice Screening two

William Kentridge
Da Capo
Screening at La Fenice, Venice

John Lloyd
We are in the city of brilliant colour. How important is colour to you?

William Kentridge
Yes – the city of great colourists. I know it seems kind of crazy to be showing work in black and white in Venice. Most of works are shadows and silhouettes, which are about absence of colour.

John Lloyd
The idea of entropy and chaos – and its coming together – is that a theme you think you may continue with?

William Kentridge
It’s been a theme I’ve been working, but I’m sure it will continue.  Yeah, yeah, I think this is the start of a body of work rather than the end of it.