Thick Time: Drawings for Projection

William Kentridge

The films of Soho Eckstein and Felix Teitlebaum were all made with the

principle of NO SCRIPT, NO STORYBOARD. The making of each film was

the discovery of what each film was. A first image, phrase or idea would

justify itself in the unfolding of images, connections, and ideas spawned

by the work as it progressed. The imperfect erasures of the successive

stages of each drawing become a record of the progress of an idea, and

a record of the passage of time. The smudges of erasure thicken time in

the film, but are also a record of the days and months spent making the

film, a record of thinking in slow motion.

A slow trawling of motives, connections between the characters in the

film and their world – the world of South Africa in the late 1980’s till recent

years. There is a deliberate if not blindness, then certainly bluntness, in

the progression of the films. Bluntness both in the crude charcoal and fat

erasures that are inevitable using these materials, and in the unrefined

succession of images. In the expectation or resignation that in the end,

crude or sharp, well or ill, the constellation of images, story and sound

will reveal who one is (who I am, although the first person singular feels

an impertinence, or at any rate inadequate – one of the things the films

showed was that Soho and Felix were both located close to me – not so

much a self divided, but the artist as mediator between several different

factions of the self. In Stereoscope, Soho divides in two, in History of the

Main Complaint he becomes eight or nine).

The first Soho film was an indulgence, time out from being an artist, a

private pleasure that did not have to make sense to anyone outside the

studio. Once the films started to be seen (about three years after the

series began), it became harder to reclaim each time the space of not

knowing what I was doing. One of the tasks of the years has been to find

strategies to keep clarity at a distance. I still rely on a phrase, a first idea,

and image – but with oceans unknown between them, as sufficient

impetus to put the camera in front of the paper and shoot the first frame.

The scale of drawings (the largest drawings are an arm’s span, the

smallest about a quarter of that) the materials (charcoal, one or two

pastels, an eraser and a cloth of chamois leather), the format (film, not

video 3×4), stay the same. The gaps between making the films have

become longer. But the start of a new film feels more and more a return

to a familiar space, to a refuge for slow time. —W.K.

Published in edited form in Rosenthal, Mark (ed), William Kentridge: Five Themes, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Norton Museum of Art, Yale University Press: New Haven and London, 2009.

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