The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul is pleased to present William Kentridge: Peripheral Thinking, the first large-scale solo exhibition in Korea by the South African artist William Kentridge. Held from December 1st, 2015 to March 27th, 2016 in galleries 2, 3 and 4, and the corridor space in MMCA Seoul, the exhibition presents Kentridge’s internationally-acclaimed drawing animation works that are reflective of the history and society of South Africa. Born as the son of human rights attorney in Johannesburg in the midst of racism and revolts in South Africa, Kentridge’s interdisciplinary art practice encompassing a wide range of genres demonstrates his deep insight and rich awareness in a diversity of fields including philosophy, music, film, physics, art and stage art. The exhibition title is taken from the title of his lecture performance Peripheral Thinking, which not only refers to the logical expansion of thought from a central point, but the flow of thoughts which might not necessarily have logical relations, but freely associate with each other and expand from a subject. Like the multiple trajectories of tree branches, our thoughts on a subject do not expand in a linear fashion, but in many angles from a certain point.
This exhibition presents approximately 108 works which span 25 years of Kentridge’s life and career. The exhibition is a complete arts phenomenon with large video installation works, music, sculpture, video and drawing, including the charcoal drawing animation Soho and Felix series which portrays the social landscape of South Africa during and following the apartheid period, the miniature theater Black Box which delves into a massacre in Southwest Africa, I am not me, the Horse is not Mine, an MMCA collection, The Refusal of Time which was shown at Kassel Documenta, and Notes Towards A Model Opera which focuses on the Chinese Cultural Revolution and deals with the ideal utopianism. In addition, drawings and sculpture works produced during the long time of preparing for the works are also being shown in order to give a thorough understanding of each work, as well as the silhouettes of figures used in the 8-channel video installation More Sweetly Play the Dance produced in 2015, installed in the corridor. For Kentridge, ‘drawing’ is not simply preliminary work for video or sculpture, but the most direct and main form of expression which can quickly capture the artist’s thoughts. Kentridge employs drawing in depicting not only things that he sees and knows, but also things with indecipherable meaning.
Kentridge opens up an expansive world of historical and cultural spectrum, from Mozart’s Magic Flute to the Enlightenment, desires for revolution and utopianism reflected in Russian literature and art in the early 20th century, violence and chaos in South Africa, Mao Tse-tong and the Cultural Revolution, and traditional music of South Africa as well as Western classical music.
William Kentridge’s work has been seen in museums and galleries around the world since the 1990s, including Documenta in Kassel, Germany (1997, 2003, 2012), the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1998, 2010), the Albertina Museum in Vienna (2010), Jeu de Paume in Paris (2010), and the Musée du Louvre in Paris (2010), where he presented Carnets d’Egypte, a project conceived especially for the Egyptian Room. Kentridge’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute was presented at Theatre de la Monnaie in Brussels, Festival d’Aix, and in 2011 at La Scala in Milan, and his production of Shostakovich’s The Nose was seen at The New York Metropolitan Opera in 2010 and again in 2013, traveling to Festival d’Aix and to Lyon in 2011. The 5-channel video and sound installation The Refusal of Time was made for Documenta (13) in Kassel, Germany, in 2012; since then it has been seen at MAXXI in Rome, the Metropolitan Museum, New York, and other cities including Boston, Perth, Kyoto, Helsinki and Wellington. A substantial survey exhibition of Kentridge’s work opened in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, going on in following years to Porto Alegre, São Paulo, Bogota, Medellin, and Mexico City. In the summer of 2014 Kentridge’s production of Schubert’s Winterreise opened at the Vienna festival, Festival d’Aix, and Holland Festival. In the fall it opened at the Lincoln Center in New York. Paper Music, a concert of projections with live music by Philip Miller, opened in Florence in September 2014, and was presented at Carnegie Hall in New York in late October 2014, and will continue to be performed in different cities. Both the installation The Refusal of Time and its companion performance piece Refuse the Hour were presented in Cape Town in February 2015.
In 2010, Kentridge received the prestigious Kyoto Prize in recognition of his contributions in the field of arts and philosophy. In 2011, he was elected as an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and received the degree of Doctor of Literature honoris causa from the University of London. In 2012, Kentridge presented the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University and was elected member of the American Philosophical Society and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Also in that year, he was awarded the Dan David Prize by Tel Aviv University, and was named as Commandeur des Arts et Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication. In 2013, William Kentridge was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts by Yale University and in 2014 received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Cape Town.
Kentridge has directed the Metropolitan Opera in New York (November 2015), and the English National Opera in London in October 2016 to coincide with a new exhibition at the White chapel Gallery. Other continuing projects in the studio include work on two new multi-channel projection installations. Danse Macabre is conceived as an 8-channel video projection of figures in procession. It was shown first in an installation at the EYE Film Institute in Amsterdam in April 2015, and will was part of a projection biennale in Germany in September. A large new survey exhibition which opened in Beijing in June 2015 will travel to Seoul and other cities in the East Asian countries. For the 2015 Istanbul biennale, Kentridge worked on a new site-specific installation of sound and video. Work continues on Triumphs & Laments, an approximately 500 m frieze of figures to be power-washed from the accumulated pollution on the walls of the Tiber River in Rome – triumphs and laments in the history of Rome – though the project is contingent on permission from the city of Rome.