Moving matter: William Kentridge’s politically charged films air in NYC

Moving matter: William Kentridge’s politically charged films air in NYC

The multimedia artist multimedia artist William Kentridge, who has spread his reach far beyond drawing and painting by turning to tapestry, film, sculpture and even opera, continues to ratchet up his talents even further. Now his latest endeavor, two 2015 multiscreen film installations showcased at New York’s Marian Goodman Gallery could not be more compelling. Both installations in the exhibition, ’William Kentridge: More Sweetly Play the Dance & Notes Toward a Model Opera’ mark their first presentation in the United States.

In these immersive installations, the South African artist melds film, sound, shadow play, drawings and more. His themes of oppression and social injustice highlight the plight of those desperate to flee poverty, repression and violence.

Played across eight screens, More Sweetly Play the Dance, which was commissioned by the EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam and the Lichtsicht-Projection Biennale held in Bad Rothenfelde, Germany debuted at EYE last year. At 17 minutes long, the black and white film spans more than 140 feet across and literally envelops the viewer.

In referencing the danse macabre, Kentridge serves up a seemingly endless procession of real life actors along with his animated figure drawings. Trudging through an abandoned mining site, some figures carry baskets while others pull unbearable loads and appear as cast shadows. Overlaid is an entire brass band playing a dirge-like composition, heightening the sense of gravity.

‘I am interested in political art, that is to say an art of ambiguity, contradiction, uncompleted gestures and uncertain endings,’ Kentridge has said.

The other three-screen installation, Notes Toward a Model Opera, was on view at the Beijing’s Ullens Center for Contemporary Art this summer. For this film, Kentridge first researched dances and model operas commissioned by Madame Mao. The experience of viewing this is equally disquieting and particularly poignant in light of the migrant crisis. 

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