Teaching with Contemporary Art

Teaching with William Kentridge

William Kentridge’s drawing from Stereoscope 1998–99. Courtesy of MoMA. Copyright 2010- William Kentridge

There are many reasons to teach with the art of William Kentridge, and as we get closer to the premiere of Art21′s new film, William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible, airing on PBS October 21st, I thought I might take a moment to highlight why we should consider his diverse work and how it may fit into very different teaching scenarios.

For educators interested in questions about the history of South Africa, apartheid, violence and segregation, Kentridge is a natural choice. Kentridge’s films and drawings deal with his first-hand experience witnessing the dissolution of apartheid. Much like artists such as Kara Walker, Krzysztof Wodiczko and Nancy Spero, his work allows viewers to actually re-see violence and particular human struggles in ways a history book cannot share or even begin to evoke.

But Kentridge’s work is not all about history or his personal experience living in South Africa. His work also involves questions around what it means to actually be an artist. While Tim Hawkinson, Elizabeth Murray, Barry McGee and even Mark Dion discuss this topic in their own Art21 segments, William Kentridge is particularly blunt in his explanation when it comes to how he got where he is today. To make things even more appealing, he often takes us into his studio to see his process and experience how he thinks as an artist.

A third reason to consider Kentridge is certainly the fact that play has such a central role in creating beautiful and sometimes very critical work. While Oliver Herring and Cai Guo-Qiang may take very different approaches to play as a vehicle for making art, again, Kentridge makes the reasons and sequence visible for all of us.

Tune in to experience William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible on October 21st at 10pm (ET) on PBS. And stay tuned for information about downloading the brand new Educator Guide for the film, too!

Contributor
Joe Fusaro is the senior education advisor for Art21, and has written Art21’s “Teaching with Contemporary Art” column since 2008. He is an exhibiting artist and visual arts chair for the Nyack Public Schools in New York; and an adjunct instructor for New York University’s Graduate Program in Art and Arts Professions.

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