Zeitz MOCAA hosts William Kentridge survey

Why should I hesitate : Putting drawings to work

William Kentridge, Putting drawings to work. William Kentridge, The Studio. Installation View, Zeitz MOCAA 2019. ©Anel Wessels
William Kentridge, The Studio. Installation View, Zeitz MOCAA 2019. ©Anel Wessels

The largest ever survey exhibition by internationally acclaimed artist William Kentridge opens in Cape Town in August. This major exhibition will be hosted simultaneously in two parts by the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA), which will host his multi-media works; and at Norval Foundation, which will present his sculptural works.

William Kentrdige Putting Drawings to work. William Kentridge. Tapestries Installation View Zeitz MOCAA 2019. ©Anel Wessels
William Kentridge. Tapestries Installation View Zeitz MOCAA 2019. ©Anel Wessels

Why Should I Hesitate: Putting Drawings to Work, hosted at Zeitz MOCAA, will stage a large oeuvre of Kentridge’s 40-year career, showing works including charcoal drawings, woodcut prints, stop-frame animation, tapestries, installation and video. In addition, the exhibition will pay particular attention to the role of studio practice in Kentridge’s career.

“When conceptualising this exhibition, we wanted to do more than simply attempt to condense many of Kentridge’s projects from his illustrious career into one space. It was vital to unpack Kentridge and reveal more of his processes and how two-dimensional forms assume life. We also wanted to offer a sort of ‘backstage’ view of the artist on his journeys and his experimentations, and sometimes at his most uncertain and vulnerable.”

Explains Azu Nwagbogu, curator of the exhibition.
Wiliam Kentridge putting drawings to work - Installation view_ O sentimental Machine
William Kentridge. O Sentimental Machine. Installation View at the ZEITZ MOCAA. O Sentimental Machine, 2015. ©Anel Wessels

The exhibition title, Why Should I Hesitate, is taken from the artist’s recent opera, The Head and the Load (2018), which explores some of the paradoxes of Africa’s involvement in the First World War. This question was first posed by an African soldier who had a difficult choice: accept conscription – leaving behind the security of his home, to risk his life in a war of which he had little knowledge – or reject conscription and face certain persecution. Read in the context of Kentridge’s studio practice, Why Should I Hesitate is, therefore, a question that stresses the importance of process over procedure or product. It is an attempt to draw out the artist’s work from the uncertainties of legend, so it can be understood within the context of our ever-changing cultural climate: an exercise that resists inertia but is necessarily framed by doubt.

“While Kentridge remains dedicated to a South African narrative, his projects pose humanist questions of other such similar historical failures and other utopic possibilities for success. In this way, the exhibition may be viewed as a historiographic reading of the world over the last century.”

Adds Tammy Langtry, curator of the exhibition.

Due to the breadth of the artist’s creative practice, the exhibition spans five independent spaces throughout Zeitz MOCAA – Level 3, Level 1, Centre for the Moving Image, BMW Atrium, and a nighttime projection in the Track Shed.

William Kentridge, The Studio. Installation View. Zeitz MOCAA 2019. © Anel Wessels.
William Kentridge, The Studio. Installation View. Zeitz MOCAA 2019. © Anel Wessels.

Level 3 : The Biography

William Kentridge, Putting drawings to work. William Kentrdige, Early Prints And Drawings. Installation View at the Zeitz MOCAA 2019. ©Anel Wessels
William Kentridge, Early Prints And Drawings. Installation View at the Zeitz MOCAA 2019. ©Anel Wessels

The exhibition begins here, charting a course for the visitor from earliest works of drawings and prints (1976 – 2019), to larger theatrically staged works. It encourages the viewer to make imaginative, cross-continental leaps, bridging social, political, and economic systems until they are finally able to land at a personal and granular connection – a product of the catalysing force of Kentridge’s work.

Level 1 : The Processional and the Processes of Making

Wiliam Kentridge putting drawings to work - Installation view
William Kentridge More Sweetly Play The Dance, 2015. Installation view at the Zeitz MOCAA ©Anel Wessels

The exhibition here observes the formalistic aspects of Kentridge’s creation, from drawings to processes of making across multiple media. These galleries focus on the global histories of movement, rooted in a project Kentridge created in Rome, Italy. Titled Triumphs and Laments (2016) Kentridge created a 500-metre temporary frieze on the walls of the river Tiber. This frieze depicted histories of the Roman empire, both with its triumphs and lamentations.

Centre for the Moving Image -Drawings for Projection (1989-2011)

Wiliam Kentridge putting drawings to work - Installation view
William Kentridge, Centre For The Moving Image. Installation View. Sketches For Monument 1990 ©Anel Wessels

Built out of the form of the original grain silo bins, the viewing rooms exhibit the animated film series, Drawings for Projection (1989 – 2011). This series began as a way to record the process of drawing; a desire to, as Kentridge explains, understand the drawing “not as a finished, finite fact, but as something that is provisional”.

BMW Atrium – Almost Don’t Tremble

William Kentridge Putting Drawings to work. Detail Heart beat Sewing Machine_2016. ©Anel Wessels
William Kentridge. Detail Heart beat Sewing Machine 2016. ©Anel Wessels

Commissioned as a site-specific installation for the exhibition, Kentridge’s recognisable megaphones surround the Zeitz MOCAA BMW Atrium. Through the megaphones, the musical pieces echo currents found within previous musical collaborations, built on existing lexicons of song and sound, and stretched to fill the expansive space. The megaphone is often associated as an instrument of political propaganda. It amplifies and exaggerates sound. Kentridge makes a sculptural caricature of the instrument. Used for both revolution and order, the megaphone’s sphere references a point of origin and trajectory. The visitor can follow the sound around the BMW Atrium as the collective of megaphones plays the intimate song by each composer.

Wiliam Kentridge putting drawings to work - Installation view_ O sentimental Machine
William Kentridge. O Sentimental Machine. Installation View. Heart beat Sewing Machine, 2016 ©Anel Wessels
Wiliam Kentridge putting drawings to work - Installation view
WilliaM Kentridge, Il Sole 24 Ore And What Will Come (Has Already Come); Installation View ©Anel Wessels

Track Shed – Shadow Procession

The first site, at the entrance to the museum, is historically where the grain silo would receive and send out its stores of grain. Shadow Procession (1999) is projected amongst the original grain silo machinery. The work, an ode to the allegory of Plato’s Cave, speaks to the enslavement of people through the enslavement of knowledge.

The exhibition will be supported by a number of public programmes and events, including a symposium on 27 October that will bring together leading figures in the art world to extend the important dialogue and thematic concerns emanating from Kentridge’s work. An exhibition catalogue/ artist book, entitled Why Should I Hesitate: Putting Drawings to Work, will be on sale at the Zeitz MOCAA shop from 25 August 2019.

Why Should I Hesitate: Putting Drawings To Work
25 August 2019 – 23 March 2020
Exhibition curators Azu Nwagbogu and Tammy Langtry
Zeitz Mocaa
V&A Waterfront, Silo District, S Arm Rd
Waterfront, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa
Level 3, Level 1, Centre for the Moving Image, Trackshed and BMW
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About the author

ZEITZ MOCAA - Museum Of Contemporary Art Africa

Zeitz MOCAA is a public not-for-profit contemporary art museum that collects, preserves, researches and exhibits 21st-century art from Africa and its diaspora; hosts international exhibitions; develops supporting educational and enrichment programmes; encourages intercultural understanding; and guarantees access for all. Galleries are dedicated to a large cutting-edge collection; special exhibitions; and Centres for Art Education, Curatorial Training, Performative Practice, Photography and the Moving Image.
Zeitz MOCAA was established through a partnership between the V&A Waterfront led by CEO David Green - acting on behalf of Growthpoint Properties Limited and the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), represented by the Public Investment Corporation Limited (PIC) - and collector Jochen Zeitz. The building was reimagined through a design by the acclaimed Londonbased Heatherwick Studio.

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