William Kentridge

William Kentridge

Reduced to Being an Artist

”One can always write ones biography in the terms of the failures which have saved you.” Meet South African artist William Kentridge in this extensive and humorous reflection upon life and his relationship with art.

William Kentridge (b. 1955) is South Africa's most important contemporary artist, best known for his prints, drawings and animated films. He has been compared to Buster Keaton and Gerorge Méliès and mentions Hogarth, Francis Bacon, Manet, Philip Guston, Picasso, the Dadaists, Samuel Beckett and Mayakovski as his inspirations.

“It is about tracking down the multiple cells that we all have. And it is also understanding the sometimes antagonistic relationship to ourselves.” Kentridge continues: “One has to understand that you do not spent being an artist for 40 years without there being some physic insufficiency. Artists are always incomplete. If you are a complete person, there is no need to spend your life making objects for other people to look at. There is an uncertainty of existence, I am sure.”

Kentridge was born in Johannesburg to Sydney Kentridge and Felicia Geffen. Both were attorneys who represented people marginalized by the apartheid system. He was educated at King Edward VII School in Houghton, Johannesburg. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics and African Studies at the Unversity of the Witwatersrand and then a diploma in FINE Arts from the Johannesburg Art Foundation. He originally hoped to become an actor, but reflects today: "I was fortunate to discover at a theatre school that I was so bad an actor that I was reduced to being an artist, and I made my peace with it.”

For his art work in such different fields as drawing, animated films, opera and sculpture, Kentridge has received numerous prestigious awards such as the the Carnegie Medal (1999), the Kyoto Prize (2010), the Dan David Prize (2012) and the Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres (2013).
The video also shows excerpts from the works: 'Memo' (1994) and 'Duck Soup' (2007).
William Kentridge was interviewed by Synne Rifbjerg on the occasion of the Art Alive Festival at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in May 2016.
Camera: Klaus Elmer and Mathias Nyholm
Edited by: Klaus Elmer
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2016

  • Mika Rottenberg

    What is the Connection

    The exceptional video artist Mika Rottenberg here presents her intriguing video installation ‘Cosmic Generator.’ Set on the U.S.-Mexico border and in a huge Chinese market, the work explores the collapse – or reinforcement – of distance.

  • Svetlana Alexievich

    A Human is a Scary Creature

    Nobel Prize-winning writer Svetlana Alexievich is known for her monumental non-fiction narratives exploring war and its aftermath in the former Soviet Union. In this video she discusses the role of the writer in a corrupted society permeated by money.

  • Eileen Myles

    A Poem Says 'I Want'

    “I think a poem really is a statement of desire.” Meet the legendary American poet, writer – and homosexual icon – Eileen Myles. In this video, she discusses the innate power of poetry and how to address the absence of the female genitalia.

  • Sambuichi

    One with the Earth's Cycle

    “Architecture should thrive like a plant.” Gain insight into the philosophy of a frontrunner in sustainable architecture, Japanese architect Hiroshi Sambuichi, and hear how he created some of his unique, site-specific buildings.

  • Naja Marie Aidt

    What You Don't Want to Hear

    “Life’s fragility is ever-present.” Deeply moving video with Danish writer Naja Marie Aidt, who opens up about the tragic death of her 25-year-old son, and how she dealt with her overshadowing loss and grief through literature, gradually returning to writing.

  • George Condo

    The Way I Think

    George Condo was part of the 1980s wild art scene in New York. In this video, recorded in his New York-studio, the iconic artist shares his life-long love of drawing and thoughts on his artistic expression, which he describes as “artificial realism.”

  • Marina Abramović & Ulay

    A Living Door of the Museum

    Standing naked in the main entrance of a museum, facing each other while the audience passes sideways through the small space. Legendary performance artists Marina Abramović and Ulay share the story behind their poetic work ‘Imponderabilia’.

  • Bill Viola

    Cameras are Soul Keepers

    When video artist Bill Viola was 6 years old he fell into a lake, all the way to the bottom, to a place which seemed like paradise. "There's more than just the surface of life." Viola explains. "The real things are under the surface".

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Nick Cave

    The World is my Skin

    Have you ever wished that you could put on a suit which would open up the imagination and take you to the world of your dreams? In this video artist Nick Cave presents his wearable sculptures, the 'Soundsuits', made from discarded everyday materials.

  • Gerhard Richter

    In Art We Find Beauty and Comfort

    “I don’t really believe art has power. But it does have value. Those who take an interest in it find solace in art. It gives them huge comfort.” Gerhard Richter, one of the greatest painters of our time, discusses beauty in the era of the internet.