William Kentridge

William Kentridge

Making Sense of the World

"There is a desperation in all certainty. The category of political uncertainty, philosophical uncertainty, uncertainty of images is much closer to how the world is," says South African artist William Kentridge in this video presenting his work.

"The films come out of a need to make an image, an impulse to make a film, and the meaning emerges over the months of the making of the film. The only meaning they have in advance is the need for the film to exist". William Kentridge (b. 1955) is South Africa's most important contemporary artist, best known for his prints, drawings and animated films. In this video he presents his work, his way of working and his philosophy. He here tells the story of how he failed to be an artist: "I failed at painting, I failed at acting, I failed at film making, so I discovered at the age of 30 I was back making drawings". It was not until he told himself he was an artist with all he wanted to included in the term - that he felt he was on the right track. "It took me a long time to unlearn the advice I had been giving. For for me the only hope was the cross fertilization between the different medias and genres."

William Kentridge talks about the origin of his animated films with drawing in front of the camera. "I was interested in seeing how a drawing would come into being". "It was from the charcoal drawing that the process of animation expanded". With charcoal "you can change a drawing as quickly as you can think". "I am interested in showing the process of thinking. The way that one constructs a film out of these fragments that one reinterprets retrospectively - and changes the time of - is my sense of how we make sense of the world. And so the animated films can be a demonstration of how we make sense of the world rather than an instruction about what the world means."

"Uncertainty is an essential category. As soon as one gets certain their voice gets louder, more authoritarian and authoritative and to defend themselves they will bring an army and guns to stand next to them to hold. There is a desperation in al certainty. The category of political uncertainty, philosophical uncertainty, uncertainty of images is much closer to how the world is. That is also related to provisionality, to the fact that you can see the world as a series of facts or photographs or you can see it as a process of unfolding. Where the same thing in a different context has a very different meaning or very different form."

"I learned much more from the theatre school in Paris, Jacques Lecoq, a school of movement and mime, than I ever did from the art lessons. It is about understanding the way of thinking through the body. Making art is a practical activity. It is not sitting at a computer. It is embodying an idea in a physical material, paper, charcoal, steal, wood." William Kentridge will work on a piece not knowing if it will come out as a dead end or a pice of art, giving it the benefit of the doubt, not judging it in advance, he says. The artist has been compared to Buster Keaton and Gerorge Méliès. He mentions Hogarth, Francis Bacon, Manet, Philip Guston, Picasso, the Dadaists, Samuel Beckett and Mayakovski as inspirations. "I am considered a political artist by some people and as a non-political artist by other political artists. I am interested in the politics of certainty and the demagoguery of certainty and the fragility of making sense of the world", William Kentridge states.

The video also shows different excerpts from the works: 'The Journey to the Moon' (2003), 'The Refusal of Time' (2012) 'What Will Come (has already come)' (2007).

William Kentridge was interviewed by Christian Lund at the Deutsche Staatstheater in Hamburg in January 2014 in connection to the performance of the stage version of 'The Refusal of Time' called 'Refuse The Hour'.

Camera: Nikolaj Jungersen
Edited by: Kamilla Bruus
Produced by: Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2014

Supported by Nordea-fonden

  • Clemens Setz

    When and Where I Write

    Austrian writer Clemens Setz says he is “very vulnerable” in the early hours of the morning and cuts off all incoming noise from the outside world. Those are “the perfect working hours” for him. Find out why in this short video.

  • Claudio Magris

    Europe and the Open Sea

    “The Mediterranean Sea is becoming a frontier and not a liquid bridge,” says Claudio Magris, leading cultural philosopher of our time. But the sea is many things: bearer of history, great discoveries and the love for his late wife.

  • William Kentridge

    on 'The Refusal of Time'

    How can we get a hold of time with our body and mind? This question is the crux of South African artist William Kentridge’s immersive installation ’The Refusal of Time.’ Join the artist for a detailed tour of his pulsing, breathtaking work.

  • Chigozie Obioma

    Everything We Do is Preordained

    Award-winning Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma calls his debut novel ‘The Fishermen’ “an Igbo version of a tragedy.” Meet the author and hear about his modern day metaphor of “the paradox that is Nigeria.”

  • Mette Winckelmann

    Woman to Woman

    ”You must evaluate whether the system you’re part of could be effectuated differently.” Meet artist Mette Winckelmann, who believes that abstract painting communicates deeper than language, and explore her visual take on gender politics.

  • Wang Shu

    Architecture is a Job for God

    The Chinese architect Wang Shu’s buildings – a crossover between traditional Chinese culture and large-scale modern architecture – have earned him prestigious awards. “Democracy means a really diverse society,” says the architect in this inspiring interview.

  • Jonas Hassen Khemiri

    On Facing the Blank Page

    For Swedish author and playwright Jonas Hassen Khemiri facing the blank page is always “a kind of revenge.” Hear why the acclaimed author – who has been praised by Joyce Carol Oates – considers starting anew as a chance to do even better.

  • Marina Abramović

    On Giacometti

    Marina Abramović has always felt a connection to the work of artist Alberto Giacometti: “It’s like a meteorite coming out of another galaxy where all the matter inside is condensed.” Watch her engage with Giacometti’s iconic sculptures.

  • Margrethe Odgaard

    Colour Diary of New York

    Becoming more aware of your surroundings can “open a new dimension inside as well as outside yourself.” Meet award-winning Danish designer Margrethe Odgaard who has trained herself to register the world through colours.

  • Adam Caruso

    Novelty is nonsense

    "The European city is one of the great human inventions!” Adam Caruso advocates building with a deep sense of history and tradition. Meet the architect behind the award-winning Tate Britain conversion and numerous Gagosian galleries.

  • Thomas Hirschhorn

    A World of Collage

    Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn juxtaposes pixelated images from the media. His works are not about technology, says the artist: “I try to give form to what I can’t accept: that someone else can decide for me what I should do, see or think.”

  • Jonathan Safran Foer

    On Donald Trump

    Jonathan Safran Foer, star of American literature, offers interesting views on America’s new president and the consequences Trump will have on American culture. "The place for literature may be even more important than before," he says.