William Kentridge – I am not me, the horse is not mine

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A major video installation by South African artist William Kentridge recently donated to Tate will be displayed for the first time in the UK in The Tanks at Tate Modern from 11 November to 20 January. The presentation of I am not me, the horse is not mine 2008 follows the success of The Tanks’ opening festival. The Tanks at Tate Modern are the world’s first museum galleries permanently dedicated to exhibiting live art, performance, installation and film works.

I am not me, the horse is not mine comprises eight six-minute films which share one soundtrack. The films are projected simultaneously across the walls of the tank and each is played on a continuous loop to create an immersive audio-visual environment, which resists the establishment of a single narrative. Each short film contributes layers to a story that references Russian modernism, from Soviet film of the 1920s and 1930s to the calamitous end of the Russian avant-garde.

Kentridge mixes many film techniques from stop-motion animation to shadow play to create a dynamic moving collage. Preparatory acting workshops for Kentridge’s stage production of Dmitry Shostakovich’s 1928 satirical opera The Nose furnished many of the silhouettes used in the films. On top of projections of these human figures, paper cut-outs were interposed to establish links between the constructivism of artists such as El Lissitzky and Russian filmmakers.

The Nose is based on Nikolai Gogol’s 19th-century story of the same name. It tells of an official whose nose leaves his face and develops a life of its own. In one of the films, Kentridge himself plays the character of the nose, superimposing a large cut-out nose onto his head and torso. Another features a perpetual procession showing symbols of the Soviet era and the Russian avant-garde, including a group pulling a model of Vladimir Tatlin’s Tower.

The individual films are titled Majesty Comrade Nose; Prayers of Apology; A Lifetime of Enthusiasm; Country Dances I (Shadow); Country Dances II (Paper); That Ridiculous Blank Space Again (A One-Minute Love Story); Commissariat for Enlightenment and The Horse is Not Mine. The films were edited by Catherine Meyburgh and the soundtrack, which is a critical element of the installation, was composed by Phillip Miller, both long-term collaborators of Kentridge.

Kentridge grew up and continues to live in Johannesburg, where his parents were lawyers involved in the anti-apartheid movement. Informed by this background, Kentridge often addresses the fraught legacy of apartheid and colonialism through innovative use of charcoal drawing, printmaking, collages, stop-animation, film and theatre. The acquisition of I am not me, the horse is not mine complements Tate’s existing holdings of early films, drawings and prints by the artist.

William Kentridge will be present for an artist’s talk at Tate Modern on 11 November (£12/ £8 concessions, booking recommended). The displays of Sung Hwan Kim’s Temper Clay, which was specially commissioned to be shown in The Tanks, and the new acquisitions by Suzanne Lacy and Liz Rhodes have been extended until 20 January 2013.

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