William Kentridge



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Not on display

William Kentridge born 1955
Film, 35 mm, shown as video, projection, black and white, and sound (mono)
Duration: 5min, 50sec
Presented by the Patrons of New Art through the Tate Gallery Foundation 1998


Kentridge makes short animation films from large-scale drawings in charcoal and pastel on paper. Each drawing, which contains a single scene, is successively altered through erasing and redrawing and photographed in 16 or 35mm film at each stage of its evolution. Remnants of successive stages remain on the paper, and provide a metaphor for the layering of memory which is one of Kentridge's principal themes. The films in this series, titled Drawings for Projection (see Tate T07482-3, T07485 and T07479-81), are set in the devastated landscape south of Johannesburg where derelict mines and factories, mine dumps and slime dams have created a terrain of nostalgia and loss. Kentridge's repeated erasure and redrawing, which leave marks without completely transforming the image, together with the jerky movement of the animation, operate in parallel with his depiction of human processes, both physical and political, enacted on the landscape.

Mine is Kentridge's third film, although it is often shown by the artist as second in the series, before Monument (Tate T07483). It was made from eighteen drawings and is set to Dvorak's Cello Concerto in B minor, Opus 104. In it, Kentridge develops the analogy between landscape and mind begun in the earlier films. A journey into the mines provides a visual representation of a journey into the conscience of Kentridge's invented character, Soho Eckstein, the white South African property owner who exploits the resources of land and black human labour which are under his domain. Throughout the film the imagery shifts between the geological landscape underground inhabited by innumerable black miners and Soho's world of white luxury above ground. When Soho, breakfasting in bed, pushes down the plunger of his cafetière, its movement is transformed into a rapid descent through the tray, through the bed and into the mine-shaft. Here the miners' world of overwhelming misery is depicted in claustrophobic tunnels where they are trapped digging, drilling and sleeping, embedded in rock. Above ground, Soho sits at his desk in his customary pin-stripe suit and punches adding machines and cash registers, creating a flow of gold bars, exhausted miners, blasted landscapes and blocks of uniform housing. At the end of the film a tiny, live rhinoceros is carried up from underground to appear on Soho's desk. This, like the image of a Nigerian Ife head which appears at the beginning of the film, alludes to exoticising colonialist attitudes towards Africa and its people, which reduce human and animal resources to trinkets and symbols of wealth. It also refers to the ecological damage caused by industry, a theme common to this series of films.

Further reading:
Dan Cameron, Carolyn Cristov-Barkagiev, J.M. Coetzee, William Kentridge, London 1999, reproduced pp.61, 115, 117-21
Carolyn Cristov-Barkagiev, William Kentridge, exhibition catalogue, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels 1998, pp.60-9, reproduced (colour) pp.60, 62-3, 64-6, 69, (detail) p.59

Elizabeth Manchester
February 2000

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