William Kentridge: ‘Obesity, Sobriety and Growing Old’

Sobriety, Obesity and Growing Old forms part of the Nine Soho Eckstein Films by William Kentridge. These chronicle the battle between Soho Eckstein (property developer extraordinaire) and Felix Teitlebaum (whose anxiety flooded half the house) for the hearts and mines of Johannesburg. The characters and some of the interactions came directly from two dreams. What there is of a narrative was evolved backwards and forwards from the first key images – the procession through the wasteland, the fish in the hand. In Obesity, Sobriety and Growing Old, we witness a showdown in the Soho Eckstein, Mrs Eckstein and Felix Teitlebaum trio. Soho’s empire collapses, buildings implode, the crowds march over the horizon. In the face of a storm-racked policy, Soho longs for a calm domestic haven.

Since his participation in Dokumenta X in Kassel in 1997, solo shows of Kentridge’s work have been shown in many museums and galleries around the world, starting with the MCA San Diego (1998), and the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1999). In 1998 a survey exhibition of his work was hosted by the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, continuing to museums throughout Europe during 1998/1999. 2001 saw the launch of a substantial survey show of Kentridge’s work in Washington, traveling thereafter to cities in the US and South Africa. Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev curated a new retrospective exhibition of his work for the Castello di Rivoli in Turin in January 2004, which went on to museums in Europe, Canada, Australia and South Africa.

The shadow oratorio Confessions of Zeno was commissioned for Dokumenta XI in 2002. The installation, 7 Fragments for Georges Méliès, Day for Night and Journey to the Moon was presented at the 2005 Venice Biennale. April 2005 saw the premiere of a production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) at the Théâtre de La Monnaie in Brussels, with William Kentridge directing and René Jacobs as conductor, touring to cities including New York, Naples, and Johannesburg. In October 2005, the Deutsche Bank Guggenheim in Berlin presented Black Box / Chambre Noire, a miniature theatre piece with mechanized puppets, projection and original music by Philip Miller.

William Kentridge received the Carnegie Medal for the Carnegie International 1999/2000; the Goslar Kaisserring in 2003; and the Oskar Kokoschka Award (2008). He has received honorary doctorates from a number of universities internationally.

Recent work include Telegrams from the Nose, a collaborative performance with composer Francois Sarhan; and for the Sydney Biennale of 2008, both I am not me, the horse is not mine, a solo lecture/performance piece, and an installation of the same title, comprising eight film fragments. Among Kentridge’s current projects is work towards a production of Shostakovich’s opera The Nose, to premier at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, in March 2010.