OCA study visit: William Kentridge: Thick Time

‘Thick Time,’ an exhibition by William Kentridge at The Whitechapel Gallery, London in October 2016

This was organised by the painting and drawing group and was led by one of the tutors.

The gallery space is excellent: I also saw the ‘Guerilla Girls’ exhibition which was copies of replies sent to them from galleries around the world in response to questions about the gender balance of creators of their held works. It was interesting how a lot of text on one theme can be captivating when presented well as images, letter copies and headings. Research into amount of text that people will read shows that people respond more to the content of a piece rather than its length.

The most interesting of Kentridge’s installations is his ‘The Refusal of Time.’ Projected onto three walls are silhouettes or movies of mainly white and black African people in different settings, such as on the ‘Long March to freedom.’ He also projects himself repeatedly jumping over a chair and then there is a large metronome just so we know it’s about time. This is an engaging audiovisual experience and says more about South Africa and progress rather than time. The notes, which are excellent, tell us the conceptual basis for this first work but ‘Time’ was an ancillary idea for me to the theme of release from oppression of in South Africa. I worked in a black homeland (Transkei) in the late 70’s and saw apartheid first hand; I am sure this colours my interpretation of the work. The notes say that this work references the work of Henri Poincaré (1854-1912) on the nature and idiosyncrasies of time.

The other work that struck me was his tapestries, ‘The Tapestry Library.’ You cannot understand what they signify without the notes: they speak and show police oppression in South Africa. There were four other installations which I am not going to comment on.

I learnt that for photography multimedia presentations work. I am just stating to think about this and plan projects where my images will have music or voice with them.

The conceptual basis of his many works is very strong and interesting but more explanation or headers or signposts for the installations would have boosted our enjoyment of the items.

I would recommend the gallery and only half-heartedly this exhibition. The food is better in the trendy cafe next door to the gallery.