Don’t miss the last chance to see William’s Kentridge’s atmospheric and evocative, multi-screen installation, I Am Not Me, The Horse is Not Mine (2008) in the Tate Modern Tanks. It finishes on Sunday 20th January.
The title of the piece is inspired by a Russian peasant saying that is used to deny guilt. In Kentridge’s talk about the work on 11/11/12, he related how the animations were created as part of the research process he undertook whilst working on a production of Dmitri Schostakovich’s opera, The Nose, from 1928. This satirical opera is based on Nikolai Gogol’s short story from 1837. Inspired by DADA and a long tradition of the absurd, which Kentridge traces back to Cervantes novel Don Quixote, it did not go down well with the Russian authorities who, according to Kentridge, referred to it as ‘a muddle not music’. Here is a clip with more information about the production.
As Kentridge worked in his studio to develop the production, many eclectic ideas came together for him: the history of the absurd in literature; the Soviet purges of intellectuals; the disembodied nose with a life of its own; the artist’s disembodied sense of judgement in inner dialogue with his intuitive approach to making work; the reconstruction of a coherent self from multiple fractured pieces; Modernism and collage; how we make knowledge from fragments; the amount of visual clues needed before we can recognise a fragment of black paper as a horse; the fragmented nature of the world; his own native South Africa and the fractured gap between the promise of enlightenment which underlies colonialism and the violence, brutality and exploitation that underlies it. It is all of these raw materials and more that have been brought together in the collection of animations that play across the screens in the Tanks.
For Kentridge, the artist’s process of bringing together multiple complex ideas is a metaphor for how we make sense of things. Looking at what is in effect his research and development work, we are presented with a state of becoming, an idea taking shape, but not yet fixed.