William Kentridge. Thick Time

21 Sep 2016 — 15 Jan 2017 at Whitechapel Gallery in London, United Kingdom

14 DECEMBER 2016
The Refusal of Time with collaboration of Philip Miller, Catherine Meyburgh and Peter Galison, Film Still. 2012. Courtesy William Kentridge, Marian Goodman Gallery, Goodman Gallery and Lia Rumma Gallery
The Refusal of Time with collaboration of Philip Miller, Catherine Meyburgh and Peter Galison, Film Still. 2012. Courtesy William Kentridge, Marian Goodman Gallery, Goodman Gallery and Lia Rumma Gallery

Whitechapel Gallery presents a major exhibition of work by William Kentridge from 21 September 2016 to 15 January 2017

The exhibition titled Thick Time is curated by Iwona Blazwick, Whitechapel Gallery Director and will be the artist’s first major public solo presentation in the UK in over 15 years.

William Kentridge (b.1955, Johannesburg) is one of South Africa’s pre-eminent artists, globally acclaimed for his drawings, films, lecture performances and opera and theatre productions. His work draws on varied sources, including philosophy, literature and early cinema to create intricate art works and spellbinding environments in which he explores theories of time and relativity, the history of colonialism and the aspirations and failures of revolutionary politics.

William Kentridge, Thick Time will feature six works created between 2003 and 2016 – including two of the artist’s immersive audio-visual installations, The Refusal of Time (2012) and O Sentimental Machine (2015), which have never previously been exhibited in the UK. The exhibition will also feature his flip-book film, Second-hand Reading (2013), a series of mural-scale tapestries based on his opera production of Shostakovich’s The Nose and a set model which reveals his working process on the opera production Lulu (2016), which he will direct at English National Opera this November.

The Refusal of Time (2012) is an all-enveloping, multi-sensory installation that explores the transformation of time into material objects, sound, images and mechanics. Inspired by a series of conversations between Kentridge and American scientist Peter Galison around theories of time, the work is an extraordinary synthesis of moving images, sound and performance. A breathing sculpture or ‘elephant’ at its heart is based on 19th century attempts to measure and control time during the industrial revolution and high point of European colonial expansion. First shown at dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel, Germany, The Refusal of Time is a collaboration between the artist with composer Philip Miller, projection designer and editor Catherine Meyburgh, and Peter Galison, a scientist from the United States.

The exhibition concludes with O Sentimental Machine (2015), originally commissioned for SALTWATER, 14th Istanbul Biennial, where it was installed in one of Istanbul’s oldest hotels, the Hotel Splendid Palas. In a critique of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky’s notion that people are ‘sentimental but programmable machines’, subtitled videos of speeches by Trotsky and also his time in exile in Istanbul are projected on to glass doors on either side of the installation, offering the viewer the opportunity to observe what is going on behind the closed doors.

William Kentridge: Thick Time is co-curated by Iwona Blazwick, Whitechapel Gallery Director and Sabine Breitwieser, Director, Museum der Moderne Salzburg and is organised with the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark (16 February – 18 June 2017), Museum der Moderne Kunst Salzburg (22 July – 5 November 2017) and the Whitworth, University of Manchester in 2018.

William Kentridge (b. 1955, Johannesburg) grew up in South Africa witnessing the end of apartheid, and South African society and politics are recurring themes which appear throughout his body of work. Kentridge’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world since the 1990s, including Documenta in Kassel, Germany (1997, 2003, 2012), Venice Biennale in Venice, Italy (1993, 1999, 2003, 2015), the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1998, 2010), the Musée du Louvre in Paris (2010) and Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin (2016).

This new exhibition in London coincides with a major new production of Austrian composer Alban Berg’s modernist 20th century masterpiece Lulu (1935) for English National Opera, directed by William Kentridge which opens on 9 November at the London Coliseum. Kentridge locates his production to the period of the opera’s creation in the late 1920s and 1930s and uses his own illustrations to form part of the set and production design. A co-production with the Metropolitan Opera, New York and Dutch National Opera.

William Kentridge: Thick Time also coincides with a staging of Paper Music at The Print Room on 9, 10, 12, 13 and 14 October at 7.30pm. Paper Music is a recent collaboration between William Kentridge and South African composer Philip Miller which brings together films based on Kentridge’s charcoal and ink drawings, with live musical performances by vocalists Ann Masina and Joanna Dudley, pianist Vincenzo Pasquariello, and Philip Miller.

This autumn the British Museum will host the first major UK exhibition on South African art that explores a 100,000 history through archaeological, historic and contemporary artworks, which look at the long and rich artistic heritage of the country. On display from 27 October 2016 – 26 February 2017, South Africa: the art of a nation will use art to tell the story of the region’s deep history, the colonial period, apartheid, the birth of the ‘rainbow nation’ and South Africa today. Objects from the British Museum’s own South African collections will be displayed alongside contemporary acquisitions. There will also be significant loans in the exhibition, including objects coming to the UK for the very first time. South Africa has a dynamic contemporary art scene with a rapidly growing global reputation. A variety of contemporary works are coming on loan to the British Museum from a self-portrait by Lionel Davis’ to video featuring Candice Breitz, and a 3D installation by Mary Sibande. These pieces conclude a show punctuated throughout with pieces by artists including Willie Bester, William Kentridge and Santu Mofokeng. Sponsored by Betsy and Jack Ryan. Logistics partner IAG Cargo.