Research: William Kentridge


the Whitworth Art Gallery: William Kentridge, Thick Time Exhibition

During my recent trip to Manchester, I visited the Whitworth Art Gallery, which held a vast exhibition of Kentridge’s work, consisting of a large variety of his artwork, from film, drawings to installations.

Three pieces in particular caught my attention: ‘Notes Towards a Model Opera’, a room combining his ‘Journey to the Moon’, ‘7 Fragments for Georges Méliés’ and ‘Day for Night’, as well as ‘The Refusal of Time’.

‘Notes Towards a Model Opera’:

WILLIAM KENTRIDGE notes towards a model opera
Documentation of ‘Notes Towards a Model Opera’ – source: bing images
  • perhaps unrelated to my project, yet caught my attention to the point where I found myself watching the 11 minute video projection twice


‘7 Fragments for Georges Méliés’ ( including ‘Journey to the Moon’, and ‘Day for Night’):

WILLIAM KENTRIDGE 7 Fragments for Georges Méliés
Documentation of ‘7 Fragments for Georges Méliés’ – source: bing images
  • perhaps an installation which I found most relevant to my ideas within my own practice
  • Notes from the Exhibition Guide:
    • “documenting his intuitive methods of making”
    • “The studio acts as both an active space where imagination takes flight through the experimentation in different materials, as well as a place of contemplative waiting and solitude.”
    • “Inspired by the French filmmaker and stage magician Georges Méliés…the films draw upon the alchemical magic of early cinema.”
    • “The studio is a stage on which time is sped up, reversed and replayed.”
    • “Ink is spilt and then returns to its pot, torn papers repair themselves, marks are made, erased and made again.”
  • what fascinated me and sparked curiosity was this action of playing with time, where it had no definition…no define beginning or end
    • this is a useful observation that will be relevant within my work and practice, as I want to explore similar ideas of time and space, but in the context of the mind and our relationship/approach towards the world around us- the constantly active and dynamic structures of the brain responsible for imagination and thought – how images within our minds constantly shift and alter due to the different circumstances and factors
    • make – erase – alter – go back – repeat – a never-ending process of perception and thought
Section of ‘Day for Night’ – source: bing images
  • Additionally, I not only related to the productive and erasive nature of his work, but also his aesthetic itself
    • ‘Day for Night’:
      • black and white
      • the presence of ants who produce images with the presence of their own bodies
      • how the smallest moving marks/objects can create a semiotic meaning – moving and constantly shifting to produce an inconclusive product/image
      • a provisional presence of an image
        • could account for our thought/mind processes

‘The Refusal of Time’

  • the most engaging out of the experienced pieces
    • an installation of video and sound
    • five-channel video projection
    • constantly active centre piece sculpture – reflecting the action of breathing
    • different qualities of sound – slowing and speeding up relentlessly
    • the black silhouettes which travelled from screen to screen – giving the presence of their objects within the room environment itself – later to be absorbed by darkness (or the “black hole, their ending unknown”)
  • I resonated with the meaning of this work
    • where movement and the dynamic was key – playing around with the concept of time as a linear thing – repetition, going back and forth, videos not aligning to each other, instead showed alternatives of one reality
  • Notes from the Exhibition Guide:
    • “explores shifting perceptions of time and space
    • “delves into Einstein’s ideas of relativity, string theory and black holes”
    • overthrowing conventional propositions of linear time
    • “a kinetic sculpture [room centre] conflates time with labour”


8:34 ” you can see the world as a series of fact or photographs, or you can see it as a process of unfolding, where the same thing in a different context has a different meaning or very different form […] I think that provisionality and uncertainty is a very key category…”

  • note to self: provisionality – tymczasowość – not permanent

9:40 “the split between the artist, as a viewer and as a maker”

11:06 “if you think of a collage as a classic 21st century art form, where you take fragments, of a newspaper headline, a photograph…and you combine them together to make a sense

12:58 “understanding the way of thinking through the body […] tracking parts of one’s brain which aren’t the same as one’s conscious plan and rational thought”

13:49 “an openness [of the mind] to recognise something as it happens…the category is recognition and for that to operate you need to have an open field…”


Louisiana Channel:

“I am interested in showing the process of thinking. The way that one constructs a film out of these fragments that one reinterprets retrospectively – and changes the time of – is my sense of how we make sense of the world. And so the animated films can be a demonstration of how we make sense of the world rather than an instruction about what the world means.”


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