Art@Site William Kentridge World on its Hind Legs Cape Town

William Kentridge


World on its Hind Legs

World on its Hind Legs
William Kentridge: "The world on his hind legs had many different origins in the studio as graphic works as drawing. It was an animation of a set of legs, like two pylons marching from the upright made with Handspring Puppet Company written by Jane Taylor, called ‘Zeno at 4am’ and used a lot of shadow figures of legs moving across the landscape. And in that the world was a tiny the size of a head on the top of these two pylon legs.
And I did a project for an Italian newspaper which were four drawings to go on the back page of the newspaper for four successive weeks and in that the world grew the circle, the head on the pilot legs glued to the idea of the whole world, walking, walking along.
And so it's existed in different forms.
So the image of the sphere, not of Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders or the heavens on his shoulders, but rather of the world itself picking itself up by its own bootstraps. And walking along is an image that is intriguing. It partly has to do with the simplicity of a circle beine world, and two triangles being the legs.
As soon as you have two objects joined in the middle, you have a sense of legs that can walk.
That's one element of the sculpture that existed in smaller forms and in the larger forms. But the other point about the sculpture, it has to do with a provisionality of coherence, there's only one position from which you can see the image of the world on its hind legs. So it's a kind of empty sculpture, it should be three dimensional, but it only makes visual sense from one position with one eye, as if you look slightly below the level of the balcony, outside the opposite the garden at the foundation.
But you get a sense of it from the balcony, looking towards the sculpture with the world on hind legs against this white plate. But from all other places, the coherence of the image does integrate, and you're left with the kind of an abstract mess. So it's very much about the way we put fragments together to make things coherent.
We see half of something but imagine what the other half is, we hear half a sentence and imagine what the other part could have been. We nearly understand the foreign language. But the words that we don't understand, we fill in for ourselves as if we are taking this fragmented view of the world on its hind legs, and putting it together into a single, coherent image.
So it's very much about the way we make meaning in the world, not only the meaning of the sculpture, but of all of our daily life living.
Narrator: Let’s go back to the main path and walk toward the large black sculpture that looks like a bull.
World on its Hind Legs was conceived as a public art piece by Kentridge and his long-time collaborator Gerhard Marx. The image is based on Kentridge’s drawings for an Italian newspaper in which he addressed the Italian invasion of Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) in 1935. The first maquette was made of torn sheets of paper and cardboard; the fragmented nature of that work remains in the finished sculptuWhile the world appears so powerful and direct in its stride, this composition can only be seen from two vantage points, suggesting the fragile and tenuous nature of how the world is held together. The public art work unveiled in Johannesburg in 2010 stands more than 13 feet tall and weighs 9,000 pounds. Another version exists in an edition of 6, but the present lot is unique.
‘All my work is rooted in this rather desperate provincial city’ (Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, William Kentridge, 1998, p.14). Born in 1955 in Johannesburg, Kentridge’s artistic practice has become irrevocably tied to the second largest city on the continent and to the history of the country which he continues to call home. Kentridge’s trajectory as an artist was not evident from the start. Originating from a family of lawyers, Kentridge earned a degree in Politics and African Studies from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg before traveling to Paris’s École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq to study mie. Upon discovering that his talents did not lie on the stage or in front of a camera, Kentridge turned to drawing. The lasting impact of Kentridge’s theatrical past can easily be seen within his works.
As politically engaged as they are expressive, lyrical and poetic, Kentridge creates works ranging from prints, drawings, video work and sculpture in order to investigate pre- and post-apartheid South Africa. Often possessing an autobiographical quality, a work by Kentridge analyses his life in apartheid South Africa as a white Jewish male and his relationship to the suffering that was occurring around him by the black South African majority. William Kentridge is perhaps most known for his practice of creating and then erasing charcoal drawings, all the while recording the entire process. Exhibiting the drawings alongside the video recordings directly connects the importance of his artistic practice to his broader thematic intentions. Although Kentridge’s work can appear visually antiquated through the of historic materials such as maps and photographs, they are in fact deeply contemporary and topical.
Kentridge believes that we each ‘approach the outside world very much in terms of what is happening inside us’ (William Kentridge, Angela Breidbach, William Kentridge: Thinking Aloud, 2005, p. 91). Made from various pieces of abstractly cut steel this beautiful sculpture is incredibly engaging and lends itself to this narrative. Every angle from which one observes World on its Hind Legs presents a new perspective for the viewer. From one angle, a globe resting on its two hind legs and from another, a more abstract vision that bears little to no resemblance to the one before. The work is presented on the original wood pedestal selected by the artist and in total measures 162.5 by 65 by 69cm. (widest).

Norval Foundation:
Listen to William Kentridge in his studio discussing his two works 'Action' and 'World on its Hind Legs'. These works were displayed at Norval Foundation in 2019 as part entridge's sculpture retrospective, 'Why Should I Hesitate: Sculpture', now they reside in our Sculpture Garden and form part of our audio tour, Norval Foundation’s Sculpture Garden: A Guide to the Artwork.
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 thatombine 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 expresive qualities of Kentridge's handwriting, the viewer sees a sombre picture upon first glance, an impression that is perpetuated as 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