05 September - 16 November 2014

William Kentridge: The Refusal of Time

Never before seen in New Zealand, City Gallery is excited to be hosting William Kentridge's work The Refusal of Time. Combining the magic of theatre, film, sculpture, drawing, music and dance, the thirty-minute five-channel video installation addresses the elusive nature of time, and our political and personal efforts to control or deny it. The Refusal of Time is the South African artist's most moving and spectacular work to date.

This must-see immersive experience seems to be powered by a pumping, breathing, accordion-like sculpture in the middle of the room – The Elephant. The Refusal of Time addresses different ways of understanding and measuring time (from Newton to String Theory) and combines different cinematic processes (animated drawing, live action and pixelated motion). Footage includes giant ticking metronomes, bicycle wheels, the artist clambering over chairs and a shadowy march of figures that carry and haul all manner of items including a bathtub. Walking in file and hunched over, the melancholic procession moves from screen to screen eventually encircling the viewer with their cargo.

William Kentridge was born in 1955 in Johannesburg, where he continues to live. His work draws on the history of art and the histories of the world as well as his personal experiences of apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa. One of the most compelling and acclaimed artists of our time, Kentridge has become recognised for his unique, diverse and prolific artistic practice which includes the production of animated films, drawings, sculpture and tapestries, as well as theatre works and operas. His work combines visually seductive imagery with probing explorations of the interwoven and often painful histories of science, humanism, colonialism and globalisation. In 2010, Kentridge directed a new production of Dmitri Shostakovich's The Nose at the Metropolitan Opera which was widely praised by critics and also won acclaim for his 2005 production of Mozart's The Magic Flute.

The Refusal of Time developed out of conversations between Kentridge and Harvard University science historian Peter Galison about the way science is riddled with poetic metaphors. It was made for Documenta 13 in 2012, in collaboration with South African filmmaker Catherine Meyburgh, composer Philip Miller and dancer Dada Masilo. Miller, who has been working with Kentridge for over a decade, is famed for synthesising diverse musical traditions, including classical music, modern atonal music and South African folk music. His soundscape is rich in menacing tuba drones, breathing sounds, early 20th century songs, and the ghostly voices of shortwave Numbers Stations. The soundtrack is projected through looming, old-fashioned, movie-set megaphones.

The Refusal of Time has been acquired by major public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, San Francisco MoMA, and the Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth (who has lent it to City Gallery). It was recently shown at the Metropolitan, and featured in the 2014 Perth International Arts Festival. Kentridge has been the subject of numerous exhibitions, including the retrospective William Kentridge: Five Themes at Museum of Modern Art, New York (which travelled extensively through the United States, Europe, and Israel from 2009 to 2012); and shows at the Jeu de Paume, Paris (2010), the Albertina Museum, Vienna (2010), and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2009). His work has also been exhibited in major international exhibitions, including Documenta 10 and 11 (1997 and 2002), and the 1993, 1999, and 2005 Venice Biennales.

Awards include the Carnegie Prize (1999), Kaiserring Kunstpreis der Stadt Goslar (2003), Oskar-Kokoschka-Preis (2008), and 26th Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy (2010). He has received honorary doctorates from the Royal College of Art, London (2010), Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa (2008), and the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (2004).

William Kentridge is represented by Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris. The Refusal of Time is on loan from the State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia (purchased through the Tomorrow Fund, Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation, 2013).

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