‘9 Drawings for Projection’


South African artist William Kentridge makes animations via an idiosyncratic, self-taught method: He creates several charcoal drawings, then smears and redraws them, capturing the process frame by frame, calling the results “drawings for projection.” The technique itself is not entirely unique (Oskar Fischinger made “motion paintings” as early as the 1940s), but Kentridge’s films bear a distinctive style. Composed in black, white, and gray with rare blue or red highlights, these nine shorts made between 1989 and 2003 chronicle the ongoing tale of Soho Eckstein, a corpulent, pinstriped white industrialist with a Hogarthian body and Updikian soul, whose name faintly echoes that of his maker’s homeland. The evocative, allegorical narratives smudge and coalesce in a visual stream of consciousness punctuated by recurring motifs: mid-20th-century office gear like rotary phones and adding machines, which morph into the forgotten black bodies of company workers. Eckstein remains ignorant of his oppression and the subsequent post-apartheid political upheavals around him; he is more concerned with an ongoing affair between Mrs. Eckstein and one Felix Teitelbaum. Kentridge usually shows these shorts individually, in installations with the drawings. Their uniform pace, tone, and look make this feature-length sit-through a challenge, despite the shorts’ evident accomplishments.

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