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.