More than 130 feet long, William Kentridge’s 8-channel video installation, More Sweetly Play the Dance, encircles the viewer. Partly filmed live, partly rendered in Kentridge’s signature animated style, the work covers the walls of a gallery with images of a procession in a blasted landscape. An update of the danse macabre, this parade of death includes a brass band in the lead, followed by people carrying possessions or shrouded bodies, priests, patients dragging their IV drips, skeletons, and a live ballerina (South African dancer Dada Masilo), who wears a military uniform and carries a rifle. Wooden chairs for the viewers and four megaphones on tripods playing the soundtrack make this performative video an immersive experience. Combining elements of medieval allegory with evocations of recent sights such as Syrian refugees and bodies felled by Ebola, Kentridge presents a never-ending carnivalesque reminder of our own mortality that is by turns morbid, chilling, comic, and political. But in the artist’s hands, the triumph of death ultimately becomes a celebration of resilience and life.
William Kentridge is regarded as one of the most significant contemporary artists of our time. He has gained international recognition for his distinctive animated short films, and for the charcoal drawings he creates through a unique process of erasure and re-drawing. A native of Johannesburg, Kentridge has always addressed the more challenging and intimate aspects of contemporary life in South Africa, during both Apartheid and the post-Apartheid period, investigating the ways in which identities are shaped through shifting ideas of history and place. In the course of his examination, he explores the role of poetry in contemporary society, and offers a biting, satirical commentary of that society, proposing a way of seeing life as process rather than as fact. He is a visual artist, a filmmaker, a director, and a great raconteur. His body of work has spanned several artistic disciplines over three decades. Through the mediums of film, sculpture, installation, charcoal drawing, and his work in theater, Kentridge has explored the nature of memory and emotions, and the ambiguity and complexity of social conflicts in the age of globalization.