South African artist William Kentridge returns at Holland Festival 2012 with the world première of his latest chamber opera "Refuse the hour". Azim Koning (d'Afrique) had a short interview with South Africa's best known artist.
Kentridge is well known for his 2D keyframing animations, in which he makes the animations within one single key frame. His use of layers and his resistance to the linearity of time in his animations can also be found in his operas. In Refuse the hour, Kentridge combines dance and live music with some strange machines and projections of his own animations, which are mixed with live projections of the performance itself, creating a world in which time does not adhere to the laws of nature, but rather to the laws of Kentridge.
Some questions and answers
Azim Koning (AK): Three years ago, two months before the Holland festival 2009, I asked Brett Bailey if his next step would be towards opera. You studied politics, then etching and finally (in Paris) mime and theatre. You started theatre projects already in 1992 with the Handspring Puppet Company. In Refuse the Hour (your play at this years Holland Festival) you again bring together animations, live music, dance, and installations in the performance. What brought you to this interest in combining visual and performing arts?
William Kentridge (WK): There are several answers. First, biography. From high school through my time as a student at university and after, I had a dual interest in theatre and performance, and image-making. For a while I tried to separate them, thinking one had to concentrate on a particular field to master it. But I abandoned this purity fairly early on, when I understood the only hope for the work was the migration of ideas and images from one medium into another – etching into film, drawing into theatre, from theatre back into sculpture. I rely on the demands of each medium to provoke new images in other mediums. A kinetic sculpture can be the impulse for a dance. A monologue can be the provocation for a linocut.
AK: Occasionally you have stated that you are interested in a political art. You also have said that you never tried to make illustrations of apartheid. However, your work is often “ spawned by, and fed off, the brutalised society left in its wake”. Does that account for your theatre work as well?
AK: How have visual arts on the one hand and theatre and theatre making on the other changed after Apartheid collapsed in South Africa? And why do you think so many young South African artists nowadays show such high quality and are attracting so much attention?
WK: The ending of the Afrikaner Nationalist government was not the end of politics in the country. It is better understood as the end of anti-apartheid than the end of apartheid - which still continues in many ways throughout the country. Continuing inequalities, injustices, new contradictions in the society, are strong provocation for artists and theatre makers - who of necessity have to make sense of their lives and their world.
The big change which followed the transformation in SA, in terms of art and theatre was that, the ending of the isolation of artists from SA. Ironically, this isolation during the apartheid years enabled a lot of work to develop on its own terms – this came from the very fact that it was not part of an international conversation. Now that we are part of a globalised art-mixture, it becomes harder for artists to find their own voice. But we are all still touched by the extraordinary and always surprising crises and contradictions we live in. The energy of a society threatening to fall apart, but still holding, must come through in music, theatre, and images.
Refuse the Hour will be performed at Frascati Theatre in Amsterdam on 18 and 19 June 2012 (at 8.30 pm). Both performances are sold out. An extra show on 17 June is planned.
Refuse The Hour - Holland Festival 2012
Refuse the Hour - Theater Frascati