Art21′s latest Exclusive video has just been posted–check out “William Kentridge: Meaning“ on Art21.org! Filmed at his Johannesburg studio in 2008, William Kentridge discusses how the physical activities of cutting, tearing and collaging generate ideas and infuse his work with meaning. Rather than starting with an idea that is then executed, Kentridge relies on these freeform processes and the resulting juxtapositions to find connections and raise questions. Finished works are shown at the Annandale Galleries in Sydney, Australia.
William Kentridge is featured in the Season 5 (2009) episode Compassion of the Art in the Twenty-First Century television series as well as the Art21 special William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible (2010), both on PBS. Watch full episodes online for free via PBS Video or Hulu, as a paid download via iTunes (link opens application), or as part of a Netflix streaming subscription.
CREDITS | Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Susan Sollins. Camera: Philippe Charluet & Robert Elfstrom. Sound: Ray Day. Editor: Paulo Padilha. Artwork courtesy: William Kentridge. Special Thanks: Annandale Galleries. Video: © 2012 Art21, Inc. All rights reserved.
This past Saturday I sat down with a small group of wonderful teachers at the Jacob Burns Film Center’s Media Arts Lab for the second part of a two-part workshop on teaching with William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible (WKAIP). The group was composed of Art and English teachers who shared their successes and challenges working with the film in middle and high school settings, and I was thrilled to hear teachers reflect so honestly about what was inspiring (and difficult) about teaching with this film, particularly with regard to play and process. Below are some excerpts from the conversation:
“Usually when I prepare an assignment for my students I’m very goal-oriented. I know what the end product will be like. I give them a lot of rules and a framework for them to create. But after viewing this film, he (Kentridge) kept talking about process and how it was about the process, as if he wasn’t sure what the end product would be sometimes. So I tried to open myself up and not try to be Miss Art Dictator about what I wanted. I tried to get a feeling from them about what they wanted to create. That was a real challenge for me… to let go.” –Patty Tyrol, Newburgh High School
“Ultimately, the film was really inspiring to me and I created projects that I wouldn’t have had the nerve to try. The guide was really helpful and I really focused on play and process.”- Angela Langston, Sleepy Hollow High School
“I wanted them to see the transformation of the charcoal drawings… and the one thing that I wanted to share was the seriousness of play.”- Debra Tampone, Kingston High School
“I think it’s really interesting to hear about getting play into the classroom… so we do a lot of play, and experiment, and try to see what comes from it with the computer and the video camera.” –Brady Shoemaker, Media Arts Lab at Jacob Burns Film Center
“(Kentridge) is the anti-hero that Huck (Finn) is… I really like this to explain how the metaphor of movement is the journey itself and you really don’t know what the end is.”- Janet Matthews, Westlake High School
If you have taught with WKAIP, or have previewed the film for future units of study, what kinds of experiences can you share? Please post your comments.
To view the film simply click here. Many thanks!
As interest in William Kentridge’s work has grown over the past decade, so has interest in South African art as a whole. Printmaking is a central component of the cultural landscape in this country and it is an important form of expression for many of its artists. In general, South African printmaking is characterized by political and emotional honesty and a refreshing fidelity to the technical roots of the medium. Kentridge, of course, is a prolific printmaker (see the November 2010 post of this column), as are Conrad Botes, Norman Catherine, Robert Hodgins, Anton Kannemeyer, Cameron Platter, Claudette Schreuders, Diane Victor, and Ernestine White, to name a few. The work of these and other artists, who are well known in their homeland, have begun to garner increased attention in the U.S. recently, appearing in art fairs and featured in solo exhibitions at major galleries and museums.
Several exhibitions this year have introduced a wider American audience to the vital printmaking scene in South Africa. Most visible and comprehensive among these is Impressions from South Africa: 1965 to Now, a group exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art on view through August 14. Earlier this spring, Boston University hosted dual exhibitions in honor of the 25th anniversary of Caversham Press, the first professional printmaking workshop in South Africa. At the same time, the Faulconer Gallery, Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa, launched the first major solo exhibition of Diane Victor’s work in this country – an auspicious introduction to this important artist who is becoming better known to an international audience. In March and early April, David Krut Projects mounted “Contemporary South African Prints: DKW and I-Jusi,” a retrospective of I-Jusi magazine (an underground art ‘zine dedicated to South African identity and politics, founded in 1994), and David Krut Workshop, a professional printmaking studio established in Johannesburg in 2002. Later this fall, Jack Shainman Gallery will host a solo exhibition of Anton Kannemeyer’s work.
The MoMA exhibition now on view provides “a representative, quality cross-section of contemporary printmaking activities in South Africa over the last five decades,” as described by exhibition curator Judith Hecker, Assistant Curator in the Department of Prints and Illustrated Books in a recent e-mail interview with the author. Drawn from the museum’s collection, the exhibition and accompanying catalogue provide critical insight to role of printmaking in South African culture and politics, presented in terms of the country’s recent massive political changes from an apartheid-ruled state to an evolving democracy. In addition to a scholarly essay by Hecker, the accompanying catalogue provides further information and bibliographic citations on each of the artists, collectives, organizations, and workshops represented. It also includes contextualizing photographs and a timeline of printmaking, cultural, and political events.
The exhibition was inspired by Hecker’s previous work with William Kentridge’s prints (she contributed to the recent traveling exhibition William Kentridge: Five Themes and authored a related publication titled William Kentridge: Trace; Prints from the Museum of Modern Art) and prompted by a curatorial initiative to “expand the museum’s holdings to better represent the breadth of printmaking activities in South Africa” (Hecker in a recent e-mail interview with the author). The first South African artist to enter the print collection was Azaria Mbatha in 1967 but he was the sole representative until the department began to acquire Kentridge’s work in earnest in the 1990s. Impressions from South Africa: 1965 to Now (and the museum’s holdings) were developed over a period of six years; in preparation, Hecker traveled to South Africa for extended periods in 2004 and 2007. As noted in her introduction, this is not the first scholarly examination of the topic (preceded by Printmaking in a Transforming South Africa, 1997, and Rorke’s Drift: Empowering Prints; Twenty Years of Printmaking in South Africa, 2004, both by Philippa Hobbs and Elizabeth Rankin). However, it is the first to be made widely available to a U.S. and international audience, by virtue of MoMA’s visitorship and following.
The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue are divided into five categories, four of which are technique-based – the final category, Postapartheid: New Directions, shows the openness and experimentation that characterizes recent print production. Due to the nature of the exhibition, artists are generally represented by only one or a handful of works – therefore, it is best understood as a starting point for exploration. In Hecker’s words, “The show, and our holdings, do not aim to be complete or definitive… it reflects a work in progress; we plan to continue to acquire works by South African artists” (e-mail interview).
The first section focuses on the favored status of linocut amongst South African artists, a tradition that began during apartheid. As discussed by Hecker, its ease of use, affordability, and accessibility made it a natural choice for the community workshops and non-profit art schools that served black artists, who were attracted to its stark graphic power. Early practitioners included Azaria Mbatha, John Muafangejo, Dan Rkogoathe, and Charles Nkosi, many of whom were involved in the Black Consciousness Movement founded by Steve Biko. Their work centered around “themes of ancestry, religion, and liberation” (Hecker, Impressions from South Africa: 1965 to Now [New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2011], 12).
In the early 1990s, the country moved through intense political protest and international political pressure into a peaceable – though contentious – conversion to a democratic nation. Meeting of Two Cultures (1993), a linocut by Sandile Goje, summarizes the spirit of reconciliation that characterized this period. The image shows two biomorphic homes shaking hands: the structure on the left is in the style of the Xhosa people (who were the original inhabitants of the area), at right is a home characteristic of the European ruling class. The linocut section of the exhibition also includes recent prints of stunning technical achievement by William Kentridge, Vuyile C. Voyiya, Cameron Platter, and others. These are less intensely political in their subject matter, though still grounded in the recent history of the nation.
This week I’d like to share a quick update on some recent Art21 Education news and highlights ….
First of all, we are all set to announce our new group of Art21 Educators for this summer. Sixteen teachers from all over the country will join us in New York City from July 6-13 and then embark on what has been described as an intense, year-long professional development initiative. Stay tuned for a full report and some introductions to our new teachers right here on the blog! It should also be mentioned that our current group of Art21 Educators from this past year are busy teaching units of study they developed last summer and sharing their progress with the entire group in monthly online meetings. Very exciting and inspiring stuff!
Last week from April 19-21 I was honored to serve as the Artist-Educator in Residence at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. During the visit I got the opportunity to sit in on some exceptional classes, meet several students during informal studio visits, and even take part in a faculty meeting for the Art Education department before presenting a two-hour workshop on facilitating discussion using Art21 films.
Art21 recently partnered with the Jacob Burns Film Center’s Media Arts Lab to offer a two-part workshop series incorporating our new film, William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible. The second workshop, scheduled for June 4 at the Media Arts Lab, will also include a small exhibit featuring student works inspired by the film.
Art21 is honored to be among the recipients of the 70th Annual Peabody Awards—the premiere international prize in electronic media—for its film, William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible.
The Peabody board recognized William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible as “a veritable all-access pass to [William Kentridge's] mind and work process” given to Art21 by an artist whom they describe as “creativity personified” and “a one-man seminar.”
“The Peabody Awards were established with deep respect for the critical role played by electronic media in contemporary society and culture,” said Horace Newcomb, director of the Peabody Awards. “The annual announcement of the recipients continues in that spirit to recognize work that sets the highest standards for the media industries.”
Visit the Peabody Awards site for the full list of this year’s recipients.
This is the second Peabody award for Art21. The non-profit organization received its first Peabody award for the fourth season (2007) of the biennial PBS television series, Art in the Twenty-First Century. To date, Art21 has produced five seasons of the Art in the Twenty-First Century series, featuring 86 artists in total. Art21 is currently in production for the sixth season of the series, tentatively scheduled to premiere in Spring 2012.
William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible is currently available for purchase on DVD through ShopPBS and other retailers. The film is also available to watch instantly through your browser at PBS Video and on the film site, as well as through the PBS Mobile app available for iOS-powered devices.
The Art21 Education and Public Programs team is flying to Seattle this Thursday for the annual National Art Education Association conference March 17-20. We will be bringing season 4 artist Mark Dion and, um… serving lemonade! Join us for one or more of the events below:
Friday, March 18th:
8:30– 10:00am – Mark Dion Keynote Address
10:00-11:30am – NAEA Film Salon featuring William Kentridge: Anything is Possible
11:00am-1:00pm – Art21 in Context- An Off-Site Workshop at the Seattle Art Museum
2:00-4:00pm- Art21 Lemonade Stand w/ Mark Dion
Saturday, March 19th:
10:00-11:05am – NAEA Film Salon featuring Art21 Season 5: Systems (includes interviews with artists John Baldessari, Kimsooja, Allan McCollum, and Julie Mehretu)
11:00am-12:00pm – Mark Dion at the Olympic Sculpture Park
10:00am-4:00pm – Experience Mark Dion’s Neukom Vivarium at The Olympic Sculpture Park
5:00-6:00pm – SuperSession with Mark Dion, Vivarium docents, museum & classroom educators
Sunday, March 20th:
11:00am-12:00pm – Art21 Educators—Contemporary Artists, Films, and Flips in the Classroom
It should be a fun and festive few days. Stop by and say hello. Hope to see you there!
As a research artist and digital media Ph.D student, I am constantly challenged to reflect critically upon the nature of the various forms which are emerging in contemporary artistic practices. Is there a thread that connects the work of William Kentridge and Mel Chin or Tim Hawkinson and Ann Hamilton, for example? We were given two final texts to read and discuss in my seminar class this week: curator Nicholas Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics and art critic Claire Bishop’s Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics (pdf). It was also announced that electronics artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, who was scheduled to lecture at the High Museum of Art, and his gallerist would be visiting our class prior to his museum lecture. Excited by this prospect, I delved into the assigned texts hoping to find an idea that resonated with my own interests. I think I might have found a connection but not in the way I had initially hoped for in the readings.
Claire Bishop names several curators who are promoting a model which, to a large extent, is a direct reaction to art produced in the 1990s, work she describes as “open-ended, interactive, and resistant to closure” that is often displayed as a “work-in-progress” rather than a complete work. She critiques Nicholas Bourriaud and other curators who are reconceptualizing the “white cube” model of contemporary art exhibition and re-staging the art studio as an experimental “laboratory.” This ideology takes shape in Bourriaud’s notion of ”relational aesthetics,” which celebrates art that engages in “the realm of social interaction and content.”
A more socially engaged form of contemporary art? Okay, I can work with that. But wait. Critics like Bishop are actually criticizing current discourse about “relational” practices such as socially engaged, community-based, experimental, participatory, or research-based forms of art. I really like William Kentridge’s tapestries, for which the artist collaborated with a Johannesburg-based weaving art studio. Kentridge was recently honored with a Kyoto Prize awarded individuals who make “significant contributions to the betterment of humankind.” Mel Chin was the winner of the biennial Fritschy Culture award, which is given to artists who “give shape to cultural diversity and make world citizenship the subject of their art.” These are outstanding developments which place artists on a world stage, not solely within certain art circles.
It is nearly impossible to talk about William Kentridge’s artistic practice without mentioning – if not devoting entire exhibitions, articles, books, or blogs to – the subject of home. In fact, one rarely sees the artist’s name without the qualifier “South African,” and he himself has said that his work is rooted in his hometown of Johannesburg, where he was born and continues to live and work. It is not surprising, then, that amidst the many influences drawn out in Art21’s William Kentridge: Anything is Possible, dwells a pervading sense of hearth and home.
While home for Kentridge is Johannesburg, the traditional home of artwork — in Kentridge’s images specifically — is the studio, which is explicitly evident in his work. Kentridge employs such diverse media and techniques as drawing, tapestry, torn paper, sculpture, film, and music. “Understanding the world as process, rather than as fact,” his work is a palimpsest of form that almost always bears traces of its making. Kentridge’s artistic practice mines the turbulent history of apartheid and colonialism in South Africa, resulting in a layered picture of both historical events and personal experiences and memories. As Leah Ollman observed, in the aftermath of apartheid that Kentridge experienced, “South Africa was drawing itself, drafting, erasing and reformulating its structures of power, its social relations, and its systems of rights.” Similarly, Kentridge’s charcoal drawings, which most often form the basis of his work, are continually rendered, erased, and redrawn. Inextricably tied to the notion of home is that of memory, and the resultant smudges, shadows, and ghostly lines of the permutations that Kentridge’s drawings undergo exemplify the tenuous and fluid nature of memory itself.
An early point of origin for much of Kentridge’s subsequent work in stop-motion films is 9 Drawings for Projection, a series of nine films that began in 1989 with Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City after Paris, which was made through this process of drawing and erasure. In Anything is Possible, Kentridge describes Johannesburg as “a city of dichotomy between leafy suburbs which are man made to a bleak landscape around it, a complete fiction.” He goes on to say that, “the history of the city is of course the history of two cities – the white city and the black people living either invisibly in the city or in the areas around the city.” Kentridge’s work explores this dichotomy, dealing with both home and homelessness, the familiar and the foreign, black and white, reality and illusion, and the opposition between still versus moving image.
Home, family, and an interrogation of identity also inhabits the work of Cape Town-based artist Berni Searle, for whom the theme of origin provides a context for understanding her work. More specifically, being of both African and German-English descent, Searle’s artistic practice often explores the split origins of her mixed racial heritage.
New Kentridge Resources for Educators
With the release of our new film, William Kentridge: Anything is Possible, those of us involved in developing the educational resources presented in tandem with our films suddenly had a new kind of resource with which to work. This hour-long study of Kentridge’s work provided an opportunity to delve deeper into the motivations, intentions, considerations, and machinations of an artist working in many media, with many collaborators, and on a wide range of visual and performance-based projects. We spent some time thinking about the most suggestive and useful ways to inspire teachers to use the film.
In addition to producing the Educators’ Guide and Screening Companion that looks at the 10 individual chapters of the film as unique opportunities for dialogue and exploration, we wanted to utilize the amazing collection of related media being presented on the companion website. We wanted to capitalize on the unique opportunity to connect video, images, and quotes with compelling questions and projects that would help teachers explore some of the themes that are central to Kentridge’s work with students.
The recent release of William Kentridge: Anything is Possible invites exploration of the artist’s significant body of prints, which currently numbers over 400. A natural match for his artistic philosophy and political subject matter, printmaking has always been a significant means of expression for Kentridge. His virtuosity in printmaking is apparent in the impressive variety of approaches he has employed, each of which contributes to an extremely rich body of work that invites dedicated attention.
As demonstrated in the recent exhibition and catalogue William Kentridge: Five Themes,1 much of Kentridge’s work has been guided by motifs that he explores in a variety of formats, from theater to drawing to animated film and, of course, printmaking. Myth, political history, literature, the performing arts, and cultural artifacts are a few of sources that inspire Kentridge’s investigations into the nature of being human and “the persistence and robustness of contradiction.” 2
Kentridge’s working process requires space for uncertainty and exploration, a fertile condition under which “ideas and images emerge.” 3 In interviews, he places a great deal of emphasis on the necessity of working with his hands in order to think, which accounts for his preference for drawing-based media. In explaining his unique style, Kentridge speaks of visual knowledge as inherently flawed, in that we only see the present situation at any given moment; the history of what has come before and any underlying issues are lost. 4 This sensibility informs his technique of layering and revision, resulting in complex compositions that convey a sense of the passage of time and a richness of ideas not possible in a single image. In a similar vein, Kentridge frequently uses the word “provisional” to discuss the nature of mark-making, connecting the temporality of a drawn line to the constant change that has become a fixture of modern life.