Featured image: The Refusal of Time, film still, courtesy William Kentridge, Marian Goodman Gallery, Goodman Gallery and Lia Rumma Gallery
There is a show of art by W K now in town. My friend, if you see but one show of art works this year or the next one or yet the next I beg of you see this one. The world of these works is both our world and not our world. The world of these works is thick and dense with rune and script and sign and light. And do you know the show is called THICK TIME and this seems as they say bang on for there is a sense in which the world and all that we are in it is here boiled down is made dense or thick. And it flows in front of us and we can see in what way and where from and where to it flows. Rune and script and sign and glyph and folk and things are drawn with ink or shown with torn or cut up scraps or light yes light much of it. And since light then dark too. Yes dark. This world flows yes and this world jumps and swells and shakes too.
And song and sound. There is song and there is sound of all kinds. There is a drum a big loud drum and a thing which marks time tick tock tick tock. There are sweet sounds and harsh sounds too. There is song. And there is change. Things change this way and that. This world will fill you with joy and at times it might make you sick at heart. It will make your head ache and pulse and spin. You might need to close your eyes. This world will speed your pulse and make you sweat. You start to dance when you see this world. You might smile. You might cry. You might have as they say a lump in your throat. W. K sees the world as we see it and knows our world as we know it and sees a world that we don’t see and we don’t know and shows it to us and now we think why did we not know this world it was there in front of us all that time.
Please note W K makes stuff with his hands. That is what he does and then he makes the stuff move. He makes things come and he makes things go and he makes things flow or stay still, he makes a world but he is not a God. He makes art. This is art. If you say to me what is art I would say art is a thing like this. The best of art is a thing like this. This is rich. This is not poor thin soup but a meal we can feast on for a long time and then come back for more. (And when we come back we will find things we did not see or taste the first time!)
He is like us and in this lies his strength. And I think he likes us and in this too lies his strength. Oh and did I say he does tricks with chairs.
I will tell you more. Let us as they say zoom in. In the first room is a pair of lungs or things that stand for lungs. Things made of wood and nail and screw and cloth which go back and forth as if they pump and move the air. And there are screens and on the screens is light and dark. Folk walk and dance. W K too is on the screens. He does tricks with chairs (and hats too) and he walks. I think I saw once he had a stick but I might be wrong. Once he bore a young girl round his neck and walked with her on the screen. He looks you might say sad but no more as if he is in deep thought. He looks at the world. And there are such sounds now here now there it is like a spell. It is a sweet pain. And there is print and type—there are words and there are sums. Now there now crossed out now smudged now clear to read but hard to grasp what it all means.
What does ‘means’ mean? What does it mean to say art, or a work of art, means? Hmm. Though not hard for sure to feel. Not thoughts but a way to feel. The strange words and the maths make you feel. The words and the dance and what you see on the screens make you sad and glad too (and your heart beats fast). And there are folk who come and go in a long line like in a march they come and go. They come in one end and walk and dance and march and then they go out. And you smile and you think hard and you see them there and then you are there and you are them. Oh a dream of life. Oh a real hard life. Oh a life of hard dream. All pass us by. King and queen and poor and knave and prince and thief and saint and the well and the sick those who live and those who will all too soon die and those who have died they pass by us, and show us the way things are and the way things might be, both the best and the worst of it. There is filth and dirt and there is joy and a bright light and there is dark and there is space. Look! It goes on and on dark and dark. The man ails—the girl does a dance. The man jigs a jig—the girl is sick. The bird flies. The old man lives—the young girl dies. A man is in a fat suit. He looks like a great white pea. She plays a tune on a thing of brass. The clock ticks. And ticks. Oh look now there is a flash. A flash of light. It is so bright. There is death. There is an end. But look now things flow once more. There is life. Here is a new start.
Things in a row. Things put in a row in a space, the right space. A space on a wall a space in a screen a screen in a space a space in a space. A gap. A pause. To look at— to put in the right space since this will help to make us feel and see what it might be like to be one who is not us.
I want to say W K is not cool. He dares much and this can make him trip and fall. (One piece I will not say which is not as good as the rest. What do you think?) He might fall on his face. At times he lacks grace. But so do we all. He does not fear this fact and this gives him strength. He does not seem to fear what folk might think. I like this. I do not like cool. I do not care for when art folk act as if they do not feel or they do not fear or hurt or love. As if this is not the stuff of our short life. And I do not like it when they claim this lack is good that to not feel is for them some sort of good thing.
There are six rooms in all I think and all will make you feel and make you think new thoughts and a warm shock will run down your spine now and then in all those rooms. (One just one is not so good I think. Which one do you think it might be?)
There comes a point where words cease to be of help. Where they lose their point or at least their edge. For just think if we could gloss the whole of a work of art why would she or he who made it want to make it—the art ? There comes a point where words must stop where we must look and feel and not say. And if we know when to stop it seems to me we are wise and we know how to live. And in a way I think this work might help us to know how to live.
Michael Szpakowski October 2016