Kentridge Impressions - Jim Barr


Who Could Refuse?

Odd how even a big production number like William Kentridge’s video installation The Refusal of Time can change so much depending on where you see it. We first saw it at Documenta in Germany. It was one of those mega exhibitions that demand a lot of walking. By the time we got to the Kentridge in the last of a series of buildings on a railway station platform, we’d just about had enough. We’re talking end of day when all we really wanted was somewhere to sit down and find a little peace and quiet.  We got the seat ok, but it came with outrageous spinning sound, light and music. At first sight it felt like a ramped up version of the Tiger Lilies with pictures. It was also hot, crowded, and amazing. Along with an incredible Janet Cardiff piece (another artist who has shown at the City Gallery) it was one of the standout events at that Documenta for sure.

Installation view William Kentridge The Refusal of Time 2014

The next time we chanced on The Refusal of Time was at the more stately Metropolitan Museum in New York earlier this year. We could hear the soundtrack skittering down the hallway long before we reached the back of the queue. The Met had just bought its own copy (in partnership with the San Francisco Museum of Art which was a smart idea) and was showing it off to the summer crowds. We waited on line for another go-around. This time, perhaps because we'd seen it before, we weren't just astonished by the sound but got to take some time with the detail of the rich animation and a machine that seems to turn this world round on its axis.

Installation view William Kentridge The Refusal of Time 2014

And the third time lucky The Refusal of Time turns up at the City Gallery. The great thing about having a work arrive in your hometown is that you're not on a gotta-get-going tourist timetable, meaning you can go back and see it as many times as you like. So that’s what we’ve been doing. Kentridge has delivered a technical marvel that has been impressively installed at City Gallery. It has its roots in the absurdist creations of people like Alfred Jarry but Kentridge has stirred in personal history and lots of theatrical gesture. Now that's a mix that's irresistible. Serious fun is what they would call it in the computer games industry. And seriously, you should go and have a look at it.

Jim Barr