Saturday, March 13, 2010

Kentridge at the New York Public Library

There was a point early in last night's talk by William Kentridge where I feared the interviewer would just go on and on and never let the artist speak.  Would the 350 + people who turned out be subjected to his opinions and blather while the artist sat, prop-like, next to him?

I was disappointed, but not surprised, there were no familiar faces there.  Hopefully they were taking in the free Friday at MoMA.

Once given the opportunity to speak, Kentridge took over.  He was understated but insightful.

He show some of his process.  Mainly he spoke about process -his work, of course, contains the process in the results.

While seldom address animation directly, he spoke of the "grammar of performance" -things that aren't obvious in an idea but necessary rules of form.  As an example he reference a piece currently showing at the MoMA in which he filmed himself walking backwards while the film rolled backwards.  He had to figure out how to walk so that it looked correct.  In the process of exploring that gesture, he developed the content of the piece.

Some interesting points:

a cat is a line, it's led by its spine.  In drawing a cat, the gesture of the line is all you need
a dog, on the other hand, is led by its nose.  All you need is a dot, and you've got a dog

Creating has "an enormous place for mistranslation and productive misunderstanding".  We create solutions from half understanding by imagining context even if its the "wrong" one.

Regarding South Africa of his younger days, it taught him "contradiction and absurdity is not a mistake on the fringe of society, but you can create a society just on that".

He talked about "seven degrees of tension" he learned while training for an actor.  The lowest being "no energy" when every step is a break of lethargy.  The degrees scale up through neutral, alert, passionate and culminate in what he called Noh -the pure maniacal gesture of the Japanese theater form.

Character/drawing/animation doesn't start with psychology but with other determining factors -maybe one of the "seven degrees of tension", maybe a material, maybe an animal...

When working he'll often "stalk an image".

Animation is making slow very quickly.

Strategies for enabling good idea to happen.

"I once had in my hands a second edition folio of Shakespeare and I thought -this would be gorgeous paper to draw on".

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