William Kentridge LET US TRY FOR ONCE MARIAN GOODMAN GALLERY NEW YORK MARCH 1, 2019 - APRIL 20, 2019
KABOOM!, 2018 inaugurates the exhibition: a three-channel work projected onto a model scaled to the stage of The Head & the Load, alongside charcoal drawings used in the production. Birds, soldiers, historical figures, waterfalls, and landscapes recreate an imaginative topography in the North
Gallery. “The head and the load are the troubles of the neck” goes the Ghanaian proverb. The Head & the Load tells the story of the nearly 2 million African porters and carriers used by the British, French and Germans during the First World War in Africa through music, dance, film projections, mechanised sculptures and shadow-play. Invoking war and history itself as a subject, the charcoal drawings for projection provide a backdrop to Kentridge’s signature trope of procession, a pageant of “what we’ve chosen not to remember”: porters bearing the physical load that was carried all across Africa, but also the historical legacy and paradoxes of colonialism, magnified by the war.
As Kentridge says, “This was not its starting point of The Head & the Load, but it is what the work itself, the material we were dealing with, pushed us towards. By the paradox I mean the contradictory relationships towards Europe – the desire of Africans to be part of Europe, to share in the wealth and the richness of Europe, and wanting to resist Europe and its depredations.”
If, as Kentridge says, the process of recording history is constructing from reconfigured fragments to arrive at a provisional understanding of the past, so is the act of recording, dismembering and reordering [an] essential activity of the studio: “This dismantling is not simply a technique or strategy, but also can be a revelation of the instability of knowledge in the world, its provisionality. The collage and the ordering becomes the subject itself.”