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The tragicomic art of William Kentridge

The tragicomic art of William Kentridge

I’m not me, the horse is not mine is a work by South African artist William Kentridge currently on display as a temporary exhibition at CACI. Exposed since October 2015 at “Galpão” (Warehouse), a space especially conceived to host large works at the Institute, the video installation’s title refers to an expression used by Russian peasants to deny responsibility for something. The projections are fragments of what the artist produced while preparing his opera version of The Nose, by Dmitri Shostakovich, for New York’s Metropolitan Opera, which premiered in March 2010.

Kentridge’s work consists of eight projections that are in constant loop, each of them about six minutes long. The video installation was shown for the first time at the Sydney Biennale in 2008, and later at New York MoMA in 2010 and at the Tate Modern in London between 2012 and 2013, finally arriving at Inhotim in 2015.

The Nose is a classic tale of Russian literature. Written between 1835 and 1836 by Nikolai Gogol, it inspired Shostakovich to compose the eponymous opera in 1927. The satire is about a man who wakes up in the morning and, realizing that his nose has disappeared, starts searching for it. When he finally finds it, the nose seems to be hierarchically superior to its owner. After several meetings, they end up reunited.

William Kentridge, through art and humor, makes interventions overlapping a nose in archival footage and historical records. He still uses languages ??such as performance, collages, charcoal drawings and stop motion to refer to the Russian avant-garde, including Vertov’s films, the architecture of Tatlin’s Tower, or Malevich’s supremacist movement. You can identify some historical names such as Stalin, the Soviet leader, and Anna Pavlova, the Russian ballet icon. The references used by the artist are many, and every new loop makes it possible to relate the work to historical facts of the Russian totalitarian regime.

The original soundtrack, an important part of the installation, was composed by Phillip Miller, Kentridge’s partner in several projects since Felix in Exile (1994). Miller recorded church choir passages in Johannesburg and used the rhythm as base and mixing the recordings with Shostakovich’s music indirectly, like a collage.

William Kentridge presents a unique assembly of his vision, according to which art is able to appropriate the tragicomic form as history and language, merging the interest in Russian history with references from the country itself.

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