A journey into the world of William Kentridge

Curated by the artist himself, a new exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia traces William Kentridge’s 30 year career.

William Kentridge is a South African artist whose artistic career began during the apartheid regime. He draws on the violent absurdity of that period to present work which links art, ideology, history and memory, providing rare insights into the artist’s creative processes and drawing connections between the diverse media he uses including drawing, collage, stop-motion animation, performance, theatre, tapestry and sculpture.

The works included in That which we do not remember are mostly from Naomi Milgrom’s expansive collection and it provided the starting point for the exhibition which first showed at the Art Gallery of New South Wales from September 2018 to March 2019. The layout of the exhibition has been ingeniously installed as a series of intimate encounters designed by Sabine Theunissen who has worked with Kentridge since 2005 on many of his theatrical and theatre-based projects.

William Kentridge, courtesy Naomi Milgrom Foundation
William Kentridge, courtesy Naomi Milgrom Foundation

“I regard an exhibition as a journey in the artist’s world, and a journey in the gallery. To apprehend a topic, one needs to live it, with the artist’s mind but also with all their senses,” says Theunissen. “I like to compose the journey as a score, with an introduction, suspension, tension, chaos, intimacy, exaltation and emotion. Some parts are dynamic, some moments are rather calm and intimate.”

The exhibition is an all-sensory experience including sculpture, charcoal drawings, collage, sound and tapestry as well as cork-lined pods, spaces where the audience can immerse themselves in Kentridge’s moving image works. There will also be a re-creation of the artist’s studio situated within the exhibition allowing an insight into Kentridge’s working methods.

Theunissen says: “The ‘artist’s studio’ room is in the middle of the exhibition, a kind of crossroad, which offers combined views towards different parts. It works as a metaphor for Kentridge’s process which is based on the mixture, the overlapping, the fragmentation, even clashes.”

Kentridge’s work has a wide appeal, talking not only to the most educated art historian or political scientist, but also to the broader community, including children. “There is so much to see and catch that one feels free about the way to appropriate the artwork. I have designed the display to open this freedom to the visitor,” explains Theunissen.

William Kentridge, courtesy Naomi Milgrom Foundation
William Kentridge, courtesy Naomi Milgrom Foundation

In an Australian first, internationally acclaimed performance artist and long-time collaborator with Kentridge, Joanna Dudley, will perform The Guided Tour of the Exhibition: for Soprano and Handbag from within the exhibition space. This anarchic and expansive performance was developed by Dudley and Kentridge over a six-year period and will be performed five times over the opening weekend.

That which we do not remember is an immersive exhibition which highlights the career of one of the most distinctive and powerful voices in contemporary art.

“An exhibition of Kentridge’s work is always a unique experience, boosting our freedom, hope and creativity,” states Theunissen. “The installation is beyond a museum exhibition, it is closer to a theatrical scenography that makes the journey lively, dynamic and playful. A light deep poem dedicated to beauty and generosity.”

William Kentridge: That which we do not remember
Art Gallery of South Australia
6 July – 8 September 2019
agsa.sa.gov.au

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