The Animated Films of William Kentridge
April 22, 2012
South African artist extraordinaire William Kentridge (b. 1955) is celebrated for his unusual drawing-based art practice which uses age-old techniques to create cutting edge and often fiercely political work in a wide range of media from prints to theater, opera and most of all film. Since the late 1970s Kentridge has given much of his time to the direction of “moving pictures,” crafting intensely artisanal and profoundly imaginative films based entirely upon his handmade charcoal drawings and using only a drafting table and camera for their arduous and extended productions. Refusing any kind of computerized special effects, Kentridge instead works and reworks his drawings as he films them, making the act of erasure as important as his drawings, keeping the trace as alive as the figure. A direct extension of the palimpsest mode of Kentridge’s animated films is the alternately melancholic and whimsical world which they describe, ranging from the comical study of bureaucratic chaos, Memo to his remarkable polyptych, 9 Drawings for Projection. Loosely centered around the troubling yet strangely sympathetic figure of the fat cat capitalist and cuckold, Soho Eckstein, 9 Drawings for Projection offers a lyrical meditation on contemporary South Africa that openly addresses the thorny issues of apartheid, class inequity and rampant free market capitalism. A passionate cinephile whose own work draws on a range of film referents from Sergei Eisenstein to George Méliès, Kentridge’s animated works are mesmerizing both as a kind of pure cinema and as a dramatic mode of live drawing.