WILLIAM KENTRIDGE: Journey to the Moon

Sep 08, 2017 — Jan 20, 2018

Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, William Kentridge (b. 1955) works across a variety of media and disciplines—from sculpture to the performing arts, printmaking, books and film. Among the greatest artists of our time, he is acclaimed for poetic animated films that are based on charcoal drawings. Since the late 1990s, his work has circulated widely and been recognized by solo exhibitions at major museums including the Whitechapel Gallery, London; Museum der Moderne, Salzburg; SFMOMA, San Francisco; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo; the Ullens Center, Beijing; Tate Modern, London; and others. His work was first introduced to Louisiana in 2008 in a display at the New Orleans African American Museum as part of the Prospect.1 city-wide triennial.

The short film Journey to the Moon (2003) offers an intimate look into Kentridge’s production process, both physically and psychically. It explores the studio space as a site of performance. In the role of protagonist, Kentridge himself appears, probing questions of vision and creativity. Familiar objects such as espresso cups, saucers and a percolator appear in this quest, as Kentridge aims to escape the confines of his studio and find windows into another world—one that is both absurd and profound.

This work follows the magical story of Le Voyage dans la Lune (Voyage to the Moon), a 1902 masterpiece by French film director George Méliès. Journey to the Moon is also part of a larger body of work that includes 7 Fragments for Méliès, in which Kentridge pays tribute to the early days of cinema, as well as modern and contemporary artists Bruce Nauman and Jackson Pollock. The works in this series are among his first to mix live action footage with the stop motion drawing technique for which he is best known.

“To make his short films Méliès painted his own backdrops in his studio, performed in front of them, and filmed his performances,” said Kentridge in a 2009 statement about the project. “The films are the combination of his paintings and his performance. He is simultaneously showman, presenter and actor, rather like Courbet in his painting The Artist’s Studio (1855).” In Kentridge’s work, viewers see the artist pacing back and forth, as the studio becomes a stage for action, presence, erasure, thinking and non-thinking. Playfully self-aware, this series builds upon Kentridge’s brief studies of mime at the Ecole Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris during the early 1980s, as well as his early theatrical explorations with the Junction Avenue Theatre, Johannesburg, in the late 1970s.

Journey to the Moon originated in 35 mm and 16 mm film. It was edited by collaborator Catherine Meyburgh and features music by Phillip Miller with piano by Jill Richards.


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