Sunday, December 1, 2013

Refusal of Time

I heard William Kentridge's Refusal of Time long before I found Gallery 919 at the Metropolitan Museum. The soundscape created by collaborator Philip Miller with some tuba heavy base lines was accompanying the procession portion of the finale to the 30 minute 5 channel video piece. Those who are familiar with Kentridge's work will find many familiar elements such as his shadow procession with all the ponderous hauling, carrying and trudging still at work in Refusal.

As the piece comes to an end and the crowd shifts I sit in one of the chaotically placed (and bolted to the floor to protect against any OCD attempt to align them) chairs.  I find that I'm not alone in taking to a chair and attempting to adjust the angle a bit in a futile attempt to take in everything that is projected onto the walls. This is the artist's first reminder to us that time depends on our point of view.

In dealing with Time, Kentridge revels in the understanding of its inherently chaotic nature.  That chaos is the elephant in the room and indeed the artist has placed an elephant in the gallery. At least a kinetic "machine" by additional collaborators Jonas Lundquist and Sabine Theunissen is referred to as the "elephant".  Comprised of various pulleys, struts, open bellows it "breaths" with a regularity and mechanical certainty that provides a semblance of order to the otherwise disjointed nature of the projections.

Conversations with Peter Galison, Harvard science historian and author of "Einstein's Clocks, Poincaré's Maps: Empires of Time" form the background from which Kentridge explores philosophies of standardization, physics and power structures.
The work is dense with the artist's overlapping themes and imagery; much of which recalls and expands his rich tradition of stop motion, reversed motion and self reflection on dual natures. At times it recalls early cinema and vaudeville and contained in that whimsy is a entirely fallible human nature at odds with the hubris of the synchronization of time.

William Kentridge: The Refusal of Time: Five-channel projected video installation with sound and kinetic sculpture. Through May 11. Metropolitan Museum of Art
Met link for exhibition

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