William Kentridge is best known for the expressionist short animation films he creates out of charcoal drawings. Charcoal being easy to erase and alter, Kentridge has often described the process of drawing with it as a way of thinking. His stop-motion videos often flow, as if organically, out of a single drawing which he repeatedly erases and alters, sometimes making hundreds of alterations each of which is photographed using a camera positioned opposite the drawing board. It is these photographs that Kentridge threads into short, stream-of-consciousness-like narratives that explore the complexity of social and political issues and the dark and deeply private anxieties of the individual.
Displayed at the Biennale, No, IT IS (2013) is a triptych of three flipbook films—Workshop Receipts, The Anatomy of Melancholy and Practical Enquiries—by Kentridge that are played to the sound of a movie projector. The three simultaneous streams split a viewer’s attention as a character modeled on Kentridge himself paces anxiously on the pages, occasionally breaking into a dance or sweeping a woman into his arms. Landscapes, abstract shapes and provocative fragments of text fade in and out of view as the pages flip past in a steady procession.
Also displayed is World On Its Hind Legs (2009), an installation composed of a steel sculpture and a film. Here, what looks like an abstract sculpture has two points of coherence where the layers of the construction collapse to form two distinct, two-dimensional images. The image revealed from one side is that of the world astride on its legs. A similar point on the opposite side reveals an anonymous portrait, with only a red circle marking the person’s face.