06 October - 12 November 2020
The making of each film was the discovery of what each film was. A first image, phrase, or idea would justify itself in the unfolding of images, phrases, and ideas spawned by the work as it progressed. The imperfect erasures of the successive stages of each drawing become a record of the progress of an idea and a record of the passage of time. The smudges of erasure thicken time in the film, but they also serve as a record of the days and months spent making the film – a record of thinking in slow motion.
- William Kentridge
City Deep is the much-anticipated 11th film in Kentridge’s Drawings for Projection, a collection of animated films drawn over 30 years, featuring the notable protagonist Soho Eckstein. South Africa’s political transition from the violent years of apartheid to democracy sets the scene for a saga of loss, love, anger, compassion, guilt and forgiveness. The films revolve around the power-hungry mining magnate Soho Eckstein, his wife Mrs. Eckstein and her lover, the solitary artist Felix Teitlebaum. As the story unfolds, Soho’s empire crumbles as he comes to terms with his own frailties and the first signs of mortality.
Like previous films in the series, City Deep is grounded within Kentridge’s home city of Johannesburg and can be viewed as a counterpoint to the 1990 film, Mine, which depicts images of the deep level mining industry. City Deep extends this depiction to the informal, surface-level “zama zama” miners of current day Johannesburg. Translated from Zulu as ‘try your luck’ or ‘take a chance’, “zama zama” is the name given to the miners who illegally work decommissioned mines on the edges of the formal mining economy. Manual labour replaces large machines, creating open scars in the Highveld landscape.
In City Deep, the “zama zama” miners and the landscape merge into artworks hanging in the Johannesburg Art Gallery, itself built during the heyday of gold mining in Johannesburg. Wandering the exhibition spaces is a deeply contemplative Soho gazing at the artworks and into vitrines. Towards the end of the film the gallery collapses in on itself, an imagined demise of an institution in a state of increasing dereliction.
The exhibition will also include drawings from Kentridge’s new publication, Waiting for the Sibyl, as well as the third in a series of bronze sculptures, which take the form of a visual lexicon, aptly titled Cursive. The drawings for Waiting for the Sibyl were produced in preparation for the opera of the same name, which premiered at Teatro dell’Opera di Roma in September 2019.
Cursive brings together an accumulation of elemental symbols or ‘glyphs’ within Kentridge’s broader practice. Functioning as a form of a visual dictionary, the glyphs can be arranged in order to construct sculptural sentences, and re-arranged to deny meaning. As Kentridge says, they are a way of weighing one’s words.
About the artist
William Kentridge’s work has been seen in museums and galleries around the world since the 1990s, including Documenta in Kassel, Germany (1997, 2003, 2012), the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1998, 2010), the Albertina Museum in Vienna (2010), Jeu de Paume in Paris (2010), and the Musée du Louvre in Paris (2010), where he presented Carnets d’Egypte, a project conceived especially for the Egyptian Room. Kentridge’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute was presented at Theatre de la Monnaie in Brussels, Festival d’Aix, and in 2011 at La Scala in Milan, and his production of Shostakovich’s The Nose was seen at The New York Metropolitan Opera in 2010 and again in 2013, travelling to Festival d’Aix and to Lyon in 2011. The five-channel video and sound installation The Refusal of Time was made for Documenta (13) in Kassel, Germany, in 2012; since then it has been seen at MAXXI in Rome, the Metropolitan Museum, New York, and other cities including Boston, Perth, Kyoto, Helsinki and Wellington.
More recently, Kentridge’s production of the Alban Berg opera Wozzeck premiered at the Salzburg Festival in 2017, and in 2018 his acclaimed performance project The Head & The Load opened at Tate Modern in London, and travelled to Park Avenue Armory in December of that year. In June 2019, A Poem That I Used To Know opened at Kunstmuseum, Basel in Switzerland. This comprehensive survey show includes early drawings, major film installations, sculpture and two new pieces, an installation and a film, produced by Kentridge in response to works in the museum’s permanent collection.
In 2010, Kentridge received the prestigious Kyoto Prize in recognition of his contributions in the field of arts and philosophy. In 2011, he was elected as an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and received the degree of Doctor of Literature honoris causa from the University of London. In 2012, Kentridge presented the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University and was elected member of the American Philosophical Society and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Also in that year, he was awarded the Dan David Prize by Tel Aviv University, and was named as Commandeur des Arts et Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication. In 2013, William Kentridge was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts by Yale University and in 2014 received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Cape Town.
Why Should I Hesitate, a major survey show, divided across the Norval Foundation and Zeitz MOCAA, opened in late August 2019 and ran until July 2020. In addition, Kentridge’s new opera project, Waiting for the Sibyl, premiered at Teatro dell’Opera di Roma in September 2019. Waiting for the Sibyl was created in response to Alexander Calder’s Work in Progress. Most recently, Kentridge’s production of Wozzeck ran at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
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