Art@Site William Kentridge Fire Walker Johannesburg

William Kentridge


Fire Walker

Fire Walker
The usually immigrant, homeless ‘fire walkers’ sell pieces of coal to other market vendors and are among the most impoverished of the city’s urban labourers. As the viewer passes the sculpture, the figure either becomes briefly aligned at an optimum viewing point , or dissolves into dislocated, abstracted shards, as torn as the rags of its original subject’s dress. This shifting quality challenges associations between public sculpture and monumentality and speaks to the itinerant, precarious nature of ‘fire walkers’ lives.
Associated with that metropolis’s market culture – a melange of sights, smells, nationalities and generations – it depicts the silhouette of a female street vendor carrying a burning brazier on her head.
The original Fire Walker is a fragmented, eleven-metre high ‘anti-monument’ created by William Kentridge and Gerhard Marx in response to a commission by the City of Johannesburg in 2010.
Fire Waculpture in South Africa, Johannesburg in the inner city. The piece is located on Sauer and Simmonds Street, off of the Queen Elizabeth Bridge. The sculpture represents a woman carrying a brazier on her head in commemoration of the activity which took place in the area in recent years, when ladies would prepare and sell their fires to others preparing food in the surrounding areas.
Designed by William Kentridge and Gerhard Marx, the 10-metre-tall (33 ft) sculpture was constructed of fragmented steel pieces to create the feeling of the figure disintegrating or becoming reassembled, depending on the angle from which it is viewed, hinting at the fragility of spaces and the people who pass through them.
The piece has been called "Johannesburg’s own Statue of Liber". Fire Walker is one of many pieces found amongst Public Art in Johannesburg.
William Kentridge (born 28 April 1955) is a South African artist best known for his prints, drawings, and animated films. These are constructed by filming a drawing, making erasures and changes, and filming it again. He continues this process meticulously, giving each change to the drawing a quarter of a second to two seconds' screen time. A single drawing will be altered and filmed this way until the end of a scene. These palimpsest-like drawings are later displayed along with the films as finished pieces of art.
Kentridge has created art work as part of design of theatrical productions, both plays and operas. He has served as art director and overall director of numerous productions, collaborating with other artists, puppeteers and others in creating productions that combine drawings and multi-media combinations.
Kentridge believed that being ethnically Jewish gave him a unique position as a third-party observer in South Africa. His parents were lawyers, well-known for their defence of victims of apartheid. Kentridge developed an ability to remove himself somewhat from the atrocities committed under the later regimes. The basics of South Africa's socio-political condition and history must be known to grasp his work fully, much the same as in the cases of such artists as Francisco Goya and Käthe Kollwitz.
Kentridge has practiced expressionist art: form often alludes to content and vice versa. The feeling that is manipulated by the use of palette, composition and media, among others, often plays an equally vital role in the overall meaning as the subject and narrative of a given work. One must use one's gut reactions as well as one's interpretive skills to find meaning in Kentridge's work, much of which reveals very little content. Due to the sparse, rough and expressive qualities of Kentridge's handwriting, the viewer sees a sombre picture upon first glance, an impression that is perpetuatedas the image illustrates a vulnerable and uncomfortable situation.
Aspects of social injustice that have transpired over the years in South Africa have often become fodder for Kentridge's pieces. Casspirs Full of Love, viewable at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, appears to be nothing more than heads in boxes to the average American viewer, but South Africans know that a casspir is a vehicle used to put down riots, a kind of a crowd-control tank.
The title, Casspirs Full of Love, written along the side of the print, is suggestive of the narrative and is oxymoronic. A casspir full of love is much like a bomb that bursts with happiness – it is an intangible improbability. The purpose of a machine such as this is to insti"peace" by force, but Kentridge noted that it was used as a tool to keep lower-class natives from taking colonial power and money.
In 2009, Kentridge, in partnership with Gerhard Marx, created a 10m-tall sculpture for his home city of Johannesburg entitled Fire Walker. In 2012 his sculpture, Il cavaliere di Toledo, was unveiled in Naples. Rebus (2013), referring in title to the allusional device using pictures to represent words or parts of words, is a series of bronze sculptures that form two distinct images when turned to a certain angle; when paired in correspondence, for example, a final image – a nude – is created from two original forms – a stamp and a tele