"The disaster always takes place after having taken place." What Maurice Blanchot has written in reference to the Holocaust pertains as well to more recent human-generated cataclysms in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Bosnia, South Africa. Closure is unthinkable after such societal trauma, and Kentridge's work, startling yet suffused with familiar gestures and everyday rhythms, reflects this lack of fixity. With its transmutations and erasures - a cat metamorphoses into a telephone, cigar smoke materializes as a typewriter clicking out messages - Kentridge's work epitomizes the provisionality of being, how becoming necessitates both doing and undoing.
Even permanence is relative--a phenomenon that intrigues and troubles Kentridge, with the result that it permeates his densely packed work. When he was six, he saw on his father's desk photographs of victims of the Sharpeville massacre. (His father served as counsel for the victims' families.) The "shock of nonrecognition" he experienced, though painful, passed, and he has spent much of his artistic life attempting to revive what he remembers as a sense, immediately upon glimpsing the photos, of the world shifting irremediably. He has striven, he says, to hold onto the clarity of that moment, to resist the "compassion fatigue" that comes from repeated exposure to violence. One's sense of trauma gets dulled over time. Like Soho, we return to our desks and shuffle papers. If Kentridge's own images feel indelible, it is a condition they merit, but also one that we, as viewers, must continually strive to fulfill. In the name of responsibility, Breytenbach reminds both writer and reader, artist and viewer, "You have to spike the self incessantly, you have to probe and to prod the numbness, you must pickle the heart, you have to resist, you have to fight the leveling or the burying and the forgetting brought about by commonplaces."Leah Ollman - 'William Kentridge: Ghosts and Erasures,' Art in America, January 1999.
Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City After Paris (1989)
Sobriety, Obesity and Growing Old (1991)
Felix in Exile (1994)
History of the Main Complaint (1996)
Weighing ... and Waiting (1997)
Tide Table (2003)