William Kentridge

Presenting William Kentridge means starting a journey to the heart of the multiple artistic disciplines that make up the world of this protean artist, both illustrator, animation film author, sculptor, performer, video-maker and director for theatre and opera. But if we look at him more closely, through his different practices, William Kentridge pursues a single objective: “Practising a political art, that is, one that is ambiguous, contradictory and incomplete; an art of moderated optimism that rejects nihilism.” Born in South Africa in 1955, he turned his work into a fight against apartheid and colonialism, an act that does not however forget to be poetic. With a degree in political science and African studies, it was only after his graduate studies that William Kentridge focused on fine arts in Johannesburg, before studying, between 1981 and 1982, theatre in Paris with Jacques Lecoq. Returning to Johannesburg, he founded his own company, Junction Avenue. He was first known by his animation films, little jewels created with charcoal and a single sheet of paper on which he drew, erased and redrew. Hailed throughout the world, his projects for the stage, whether that are opera or theatre, are enriched by this plastic dimension: with unequalled talent, he mixes animated frescos and archive projections, the installation of more or less utilitarian machines and giant puppets, amid which actors, singers and dancers circulate. Among his most well-known works, we can mention Mozart's opera The Enchanted Flute and Shostakovich's The Nose. In his collaboration with the South African Handspring Puppet Company, he presented at the Festival d'Avignon Woyzeck on the Highveld after Büchner, Faustus in Africa in 1996 and Ubu and the Truth Commission in 1997. The visual for the 66th Festival is a sketch that William Kentridge drew during a rehearsal of Refuse the Hour.

JFP, April 2012