Completed in 2013, Second-Hand Reading conveys Kentridge’s philosophical musings using flip-book animation. In contrast to the artist’s previous animation technique of drawing and re-drawing motion on the same page, Second-Hand Reading takes a 1914 edition of Cassell’s Encyclopedia of Mechanics and, at twelve pages per second, creates an continuously transforming subject, using charcoal, India ink, and colored pencil.
The encyclopedia and method of flip-book animation evoke approaches to knowledge production whose times have passed, drawn together by the artist’s charcoal drawings and bounding over the numerous artistic movements that are modernism’s legacy. Here Kentridge uses old materials to create new forms, which ironically contemplate history. The physicality of the book and the abstract content remain separate—the content playing a lesser role in the artist’s choice of materials compared to the coloration and format of the old pages. Images of the pacing artist, the landscapes surrounding Johannesburg, and dancing human figures are all depicted within the book.