A Puppet, a Pauper, a Pirate, a Poet, a Pawn and a King

Visited the Auckland art gallery, and was thoroughly impressed to come across this exhibition featuring the artists Martin Boyce, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Demand, Wilhelm Sasnal, Kara Walker and… William Kentridge!

I had no idea it was on, so came upon the exhibition with all the delight of a surprise discovery!  I am absolutely thrilled in particular to have seen the work of Walker and Kentridge!

Walker’s video installation calling me from the angry surface of some grey and threatening sea (2007) was a filmed puppet-show featuring her characteristic silhouettes.  The narrative was a disturbing one, told with no words. My interpretation of it was that it was told in flashback, a black slave child (who we earlier see hobbling with the aid of a crutch) has his leg brutally sawn off by an angry master.  The child later sees his mother engaged in a sexual encounter with the same white man, and is enraged at her betrayal.  Instead of turning on the white man, he at once focusses all his anger on his mother and kills her, but it is an exceedingly complex relationship and it is clear that he loves and hates her in equal measures.

The drama, whatever the interpretation given it, is incredibly powerful as it is told simply through the black cut out silhouettes against a colour changing background.  There are moments when the puppeteers are visable behind this screen, but it is never distracting, rather it adds to the sense of storytelling, we are always aware that it is a narrative being related, a counter-fairytale with a tragic ending and no cloying moralistic message beyond what we take from it ourselves.

Kentridge’s work consists of three drawings and a video installation.  The drawings made up of the layering of marks and erasures to create a rich image.  The video installation What Will Come (Has Already Come) (2007) was like nothing I had ever seen!  Projected from the ceiling onto a round table/platform and then reflected in a aluminium cylinder in the centre.  The action played out, spinning round and round, across the table and cylinder.  What was seen on the surface of the table was distorted and back to front, and became clearer when watching the reflection on the central cylinder.  However, where you stood also affected the viewing: further away the cylinder merely reflected the room, to get the best view you have to stand right next to the table. It is absolutely mesmerising.  I recommend seeing it in person as the above clip really can’t do it justice.

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