William Kentridge – Blackbox

William Kentridge – Blackbox



Over the years, the basic art forms have been extended through the imaginative power of artists worldwide. Different shapes or forms have been created by implementing different media and objects, which inspire the viewer to perceive art from a new level of thought. An art work titled Black Box is on exhibition at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin from the 29th October 2005 till 15th January 2006. The work incorporates drawings, mechanical/kinetic objects, animations/film projections as well as German-African history in a fascinating manner. AFRITOPIC was at the exhibition’s press conference and had the opportunity to interview the South-African artist, William Kentridge and the New-York-based curator, Maria-Christina Villaseñor.

Afritopic: What motives you to create the Black Box?

Kentridge: There are two factors that motivate me. The first motivating factor is the formal aspect, the shape. This is made up of the projection, the theatre and the mechanic/kinetic objects. The second factor comes from the question, “What is the work about”? It has to be about something of interest. In this case, it is about the historical issues combined with the technique and the form applied to produce the historical art piece.

Afritopic: How did the work evolve?

Kentridge: It evolved through a series of failures. In the beginning, I started with painting but realized that I was very bad at painting. I could draw quite well but my paintings were simply disaster. I thought of becoming an actor and gained admission to an acting school in Paris. In Paris, I discovered very quickly that I would be a terrible actor. I decided to go back to South Africa and started working in the film industry. I tried a career as a film designer. But I had to admit that I was not very competent to make headway in the profession. So, I had to leave the film industry. I was conscious of my failures. I have tried three different professions and failed in all. I had to start again. I went back to my studio and thought of combining my drawing skills with some of what I have learnt in the film industry and the theatre to create new forms. Moreover, I studied African history and politics at the University. I was in the University during the day and in the evening I attended the art school. I am interested in topics concerning the root of the world, the historical movement of the world and particularly but not exclusively in African history. What history taught me was to understand the world as a process that continues to change with time through movements. Everything moves as the world keep on moving. From this perspective, animation becomes a good metaphor for history. The integration of history into animation and mechanical kinetic presents a melting point of my academic studies and my interest in arts.

Afritopic: Which experience that has influenced the way you start your projects would you share with upcoming artists?

Kentridge: The best works I have done are those I started with open mind. I now try to maintain the open mind approach to what might develop from my undertakings or projects. I do not try to envision what or how the end result would be or look like. This attitude spurns me to initiate, implement and accept emerging changes in the working process. In the case of the Black Box, I initially had an idea of using the image of rhinoceros as a centre-figure of a project. With the idea in mind, I started filming without knowing how the project was going to develop. In general, you realize that you have more knowledge than you ever thought of in the process of carrying out a project.

You find out that there are things that you know you don’t know that you know. The combination of images and sounds unlocks other ideas and possibilities, which in turn provide more room for creativity. The ability to be open to what your work can tell you about yourself is very important rather than the political and personal aspects. You can derive the raw materials for your ideas from your dreams, desire, conversations, fears, films and so on. The sources of ideas are within and around you.

Afritopic: Now that Black Box is exhibited, do you see what could have been done better?

Kentridge: When an art work is finished the artist usually see what could be done better or improved in the work. There is the choice to take the work to the studio and work on it again for next six months or leave the work as it is and move on to the next project.

Yes, I could work on the film to refine and polish it, but instead of doing that, I prefer to move on, take the next step and apply new way of thinking to produce something new. The elements that make up the Black Box have generated new ideas for my next project. I can imagine using different kinds of screen, different objects, create new relationships between objects, employ live music and novel technology to create new interesting art work.

William Kentridge

William Kentridge

Afritopic 2005


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