William Kentridge – Vertical Thinking
Vertical Thinking was born out of a lengthy reflection on the concept of time developed by Kentridge together with the physicist and historian of science Peter L. Galison. It has been produced in collaboration with the composer Philip Miller and with Catherine Meyburgh for the video processing and editing. The enthralling and eclectic South African dancer and choreographer Dada Masilo has curated the choreographies.The exhibition, curated by Giulia Ferracci, revolves around the installation The Refusal of Time, created for Documenta 13 at Kassel and presented for the first time in Italy at MAXXI. Reconfigured for the spaces of the museum’s Gallery 5, the powerful, embracing and evocative installation is an explosion of sound, images and
shadows with at the centre a pulsing Leonardesque machine.
The point of departure is the idea of “standardised time”, the way in which every day humanity measures time while losing any awareness that it is merely a convention. The work references the atmosphere of the 19th Century when increasing industrialisation led to a need to synchronize one’s personal time with that of
millions of other individuals. The reflection on time accompanies that on the traversing of the earth, following the various time zones and the times of sunrises and sunsets.
With The Refusal of Time, Kentridge has realised a grandiose piece: animated films with five-channel synchronus projections into which flow the magic of theatre, drawing, music, dance and film in a commingling and wealth of idioms typical of his works. In the films, shadow dancers interact with various instruments that reference the measuring of time: cylindrical megaphones, wheels, 19th Century clocks orchestrated by giant metronomes projected on the walls.
The spectator is completely immersed in the story which is both epic and fable-like and in which the shadows of the dancers chase one another and the artist himself appears and disappears through the space of imaginary maps.
Also on show at MAXXI are 14 previously unseen silk-screen prints, including Vertical Thinking which provided the title for the exhibition. Then there are the preparatory sketches for The Refusal of Time, a maquette of the set for Refuse the Hour and six works from the MAXXI Arte permanent collection, the museum’s pulsing heart. Among these, on show for the first time: Flagellant, 1996-1997, freely inspired by Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi, a reflection on the theme of apartheid, Cemetery with Cypresses, 1998, inspired by Il ritorno di Ulisse by Claudio Monteverdi which sets the return of the Aechean hero in a Johannesburg hospital, Untitled (Large Drawing – Standing Man) from 2001 and the video Zeno Writing from 2002, inspired by Italo Svevo’s famous character. Also on show are the great tapestry North Pole Map from 2003 that evokes the journey of life and the crossing of borders and the installation Preparing the Flute from 2004-2005, a model theatre that includes music and themes taken from Mozart’s Magic Flute.
November 17 – March 03, 2012
MAXXI – National Museum of XXI Century Arts – Via Guido Reni, 4/A, Rome