Hurry up and take your time seeing William Kentridge: Five Themes. Hurry before it closes on Sunday, September 27 and set aside a couple of hours because it takes time. Blocks of time are mandatory to fully view most of the pieces in this exhibition. A fact that is both daunting and liberating. This is what I find myself telling almost everyone I come in contact with these days. I feel a little frantic about getting the word out. I don’t want people to miss this opportunity to slow down and take in one of the most engaging exhibitions I’ve ever seen.
I know that in part, my urgency to spread the word is compensation for my own failure to fully experience and absorb Kentridge’s complex installations and drawings of the five themes: Thick Time: Soho and Felix; Occasional and Residual Hope: Ubu and the Procession; Parcours d’ Atelier: Artist in the Studio; Sarastro and the Master’s Voice: The Magic Flute; and Learning the Absurd: The Nose during their layover at the Modern in Fort Worth. And when they are gone what of my experience will go with them? Will I remember what I need to remember, know what I need to know? This sends me into an internal discourse on knowledge. Do we retain what we need to know and therefore shouldn’t be concerned about what is forgotten? What does it mean to truly know something anyway? — And on and on.
In thinking of saying goodbye to William Kentridge: Five Themes I’m sitting at my computer trying to list everything I can recall and wondering about the exhibition’s lasting impact. How will my appreciation for the artist’s close introspection shared through the Felix and Soho films be manifested in my life? Will I be able to conjure the aching of my heart brought on by the love and loss in these films? I sort of hope so. How will the surround sound and images of Artist in the Studio and The Nose affect the way I perceive the world and even more importantly, how I understand perception? Will I recall the dark room and the feeling of anticipation while waiting for the first scene of Black Box? That is a feeling I want to hang on to. I want to be able to call up the anthropomorphic lamp that announces and illuminates what is about to transpire and reminds me of the artist’s explanation of the overriding theme of this piece as written in Mark Rosenthal’s catalogue essay.
Kentridge said he wanted to move away from the “certainty of sunshine” and toward the “illuminating shadow” with Black Box. He did. From the Ubu films I know I will remember the tune “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and the horrific drawings of body parts washing down a shower drain as well as the vintage film clips of actual horror that seem no more or less real than the drawn images. But will I continue to investigate such symbolism as it pertains to the character of Ubu Roi, Apartheid, the Truth and Reconciliation Council, oppression, and the complexity of redemption? I don’t know. But what is certain is that Sunday, September 27 is the last day to spend time with William Kentridge: Five Themes. Between now and then that is what I intend to do. Hope other people will too.