A Note on The Refusal of Time

William Kentridge

A projection on a ceiling. Audience members can see the images leaning their heads back, looking up; or look down into small mirrors they each hold. The archive of images held in the air can be brought down to the private view.

This is the starting point for our project. The ceiling projection was abandoned (we did not find the right ceiling). The idea was consigned to ‘the room of failures’ – yet to be constructed.

Another starting point. An invitation by the Paris institution Laboratoire, to do a project with a scientist. A series of conversations with Peter Galison commenced (ongoing). The project changed from the pre-history of relativity to a general consideration of time.

A third alternative starting point. An invitation, and a beautiful bombed shell of a theatre, from Documenta. It was the right place to expand the consideration and making of the project on time. (The beautiful bombed theatre disappeared – to hold the air-conditioning unit of a new hotel.)

A fourth starting point. An interest in working with the dancer Dada Masilo. The desire and the intention needed a subject. A particle collision. The conversation with the scientist became a duet for movement and voice.

A fifth starting point. From the conversations with Peter Galison, a series of ideas and metaphors erupted, each idea needing to become materialised. Synchronicity into projected metronomes. Time into sound. A need to follow the metaphors and make them visible, audible.

A sixth starting point. A team assembled. Philip Miller (composer), to turn time into sound. Catherine Meyburgh (editor), to orchestrate the projected images. Jonas Lundquist, to make mechanical (a bellows and a bicycle wheel) the principles of relativity. Christoff Wolmarans and Louis Olivier (a bicycle wheel and a megaphone) to do the same. Sabine Theunissen (scenic designer) to make the context for the machines, the dance, the music, the projections. Greta Goiris (costume designer) to find the language in cloth and clothes for what had become an opera. Luc de Wit, to find the orchestration of the stage movements of the actors and musicians. And then an ancillary team of musicians, singers and organisers.

Until there was more team than project – and then the project filled the gaps.

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