30 July 2017. I had been looking forward to this study visit for weeks. Every since I had read in the local newspaper that William Kentridge would be working for the Salzburg Festival this year and at the same time show his work in the Salzburg Museum der Moderne (title: ‘Thick Time’), I had been determined to learn more about the artist who stimulates my starting development like no other. Yesterday there was another article in the newspaper with an analysis of Kentridge’s main concerns and a preview walk through the exhibition (Panagl, 2017), so we took the opportunity of having a day off to go and see it on the first day it was open to the public.
The exhibition comes in two parts, shown separately in two museum buildings, one in the main museum on Mönchsberg, the other in the town centre. As my main interest was in Kentridge’s films and installations, we went to see the part on Mönchsberg only and the right decision it was. There was far too much to see in what I felt may have been an attempt at showing everything there is, too much noise, too many flickering images, too may films crammed into a huge but still limited space, stealing each others’ shows.
Usually I am fascinated by the sensitivity in Kentridge’s approach, the wonderful, subtle harmony of visual and audio effecty in his charcoal animations. In this show this was swamped by gigantic screens and sound turned up to a maximum. I understand that every visitor wants to see and hear, even if the museum is full, but here I felt that the attempt damaged some of the key elements in Kentridge’s work. As also there was little to see in the exhibition that is not available online, I decided to go home again, sit in front of my computer screen, turn down the sound level and enjoy.
On the way out, in the museum shop, my husband found a German language book by Kentridge, Sechs Zeichenstunden (2016) (Six Drawing Lessons). It contains the transcripts of a series of lectures Kentridge held, explaining his approach to work, and looked like just the thing I had been hoping to see in the exhibition. We bought it and I will report on it when finished.
Kentridge, W. (2016) Sechs Zeichenstunden: Die Charles Eliot Norton Vorlesungen. Verlag Der Buchhandlung Walther König, Köln.
Panagl, C. (2017) ‘Ein Bild ist erst der Anfang’. Salzburger Nachrichten, 29 July, p. 9.