Like animation, William Kentridge views opera as an ideal artistic form, capable of staging multiple views of a subject simultaneously for the consideration of auteur and audience, the voices of each character combining (dis)harmoniously in the final work. Black Box/Chambre Noire (2005), a project that grew out of the artist’s staging of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, is here rendered as a theater performance-cum-video installation, where mechanical puppets dance to Sarastro’s Aria while scenes of the 1904 Herero genocide unfold in the background.

The artist reframes the Enlightenment not as the triumph of reason, but as a failed faith in rationalism that led inexorably to the perverted logic of colonialism and Apartheid. Black Box / Chambre Noire also models the artist’s notion of stage as camera. Specifically, he evokes the camera obscura, its stage-like platform and dark interior being the precondition for capturing light. These are not simply conflicts at the heart of theater, but issues confronted daily in the artist’s studio.


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