This is Not Pixar: William Kentridge Takes Center Stage

by Mattie Kahn

The slides that accompany William Kentridge’s talks in Sanders Theatre are not the makings of your average PowerPoint. Instead, the artist illustrates his lectures with a loop of stimulating animations and short films that movingly convey themes of loss, violence, terror and heroism. Since mid-March, Kentridge has been in-residence at Harvard as part of the Charles Eliot Norton Lecture Series. And while each talk ably stands alone, the six-part series has given audiences at Harvard the opportunity to get to know Kentridge.Kentridge was born in South Africa and his work bears the strong imprint of apartheid. Not one to shy away from points of political conflict, he welds together film, animation, performance, sculpture and drawing to make artistic meaning. As Kentridge said again and again in the second of his six lectures, the purpose of art—its function outside the studio—is one that fascinates and frustrates him. For him, the studio becomes a place to answer questions — "to see where we are." And his work there is connected to larger questions that exist outside of it.Kentridge’s deep commitment to answering those questions, or at the very least, to complicating them, comes through in his every gesture. Moreover, his understanding of history is no passing interest—it’s embedded into his work. And although his animations may at first appear cacophonous or abstracted, they hum with resonant meaning. The artist's next lecture, to be introduced by director of the Museum of Modern Art, Glenn Lowry, is titled In Praise of Mistranslation and will be held 4 p.m. April 16. His final lecture will take place 2 p.m. Tuesday, April 24. For an artist whose work is so beautifully imbued with grace, it is fittingly titled Anti-Entropy.In conjunction with the Charles Eliot Norton Lecture Series, Harvard Film Archive is screening the animated films of William Kentridge 7 p.m. April 16 (with the artist in attendance) and 5 p.m. April 22 at the Carpenter Center, 24 Quincy Street.