ARTYFACTS: William Kentridge

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

William Kentridge

Inside out
Great to see visual art literally 'turned out' to be visible from the street, and not cooped up in the dull interior of the gallery. A set of large screens in the windows show black and white films all night (questionable environmentally). So far, so good - making the walls of the gallery the art itself drew me in. Then it all got a little odd.

Wittgenstein's Rhinoceros
The internal pretension is overwhelming. There's a piece called 'Wittgenstein's Rhinoceros' showing ripped book pages with black brushstroke images of rhinos. It refers to a famous encounter between Wittgenstein and Russell, where the former refused to admit that there was no rhino in the room. In fact, this was an early exchange about the philosophy of mathematics and reference. It is treated here as a simplistic interpretation that adds nothing to the story or general philosophical points. The 'cod philosophical' statement about perception and epistemology on the wall says it all - or rather says nothing, which is all there is here.

The films are similarly dull and the revelatory print in the brochure is overworked and at times pathetic. He runs the films backwards and uses jump cuts to show - well not much. This has all been done before. Far from commentating on genocide and colonial issues, it trivialises these events. There's some stupid wordplay about 'remembering the future', nothing more than words. This is what Wittgenstein hated, the misleading use of language that takes us into apparent profundity, when it is really just language taking us down cul-de-sacs.

The stereoscopic images are of no real import. They are not even remotely interesting as images, and stereoscopic viewing is handled better by digital artists currently working in film.

The charcoal drawings are, frankly, dull and as for the long explanations in small print literally only inches off the ground below the large images - were they expecting literate dogs or leprechauns as visitors?

You may not have heard of Kentridge - don't worry, it's not your loss.


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