William Kentridge: Thought in Full Flight | Listening time: 15 minutes

In this podcast episode, we focus on the presence of birds in the work of William Kentridge. Here we present to you a collection of thoughts and writings about birds and the making of them, taken from publications on the artist’s work. Listening Time | 16 Minutes

In 1998, William Kentridge was commissioned to produce The Magic Flute, an opera created by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, which debuted in Vienna in 1791. The story follows Prince Tamino and his comical companion, the birdcatcher, Papageno, on their quest to rescue Pamina, the daughter of the Nigth Queen, from captivity under the high priest, Sarastro. Instead of achieving an escape from Sarastro, Tamino and Papageno, along with Pamina, learn the high ideals of Sarastro, undergoing severe trials of initiation into the community. Ultimately, the Queen and her cohorts are vanquished. Papageno fails the trials completely, but is rewarded anyway with the hand of his ideal earthy companion, Papagena.  

The book, William Kentridge Flute, published by David Krut Publishing in 2006 traces the creative project of Kentridge’s production of the opera, and its relationship to its dark progeny, Black Box/Chambre Noire, Kentridge’s somber masterpiece about the massacre of the Herero people in South West Africa (now Namibia) at the beginning of the twentieth century.  

The following two readings come from the book. The first is an extract from an interview between Kentridge and Bronwyn Law-Viljoen. The second comes from the essay written by Kate McCrickard, ‘I Am The Bird Catcher’ which traces the motif of birds in Kentridge’s work over a period of time.  

  1. Extract from That Which We Do Not Remember with Jane Taylor – Magic Flute series – p98/100 


This extract from the book, That Which We Do Not Remember with Jane Taylor, relates to a series of prints called Bird Catching, from The Magic Flute, created in 2006. 

The first portion is Kentridge’s own writing about the suite of prints. This is followed by thoughts from Jane Taylor on the presence of birds in Kentridge’s work. 

  1. Extract from WK: Notes Towards A Model Opera – ‘A Death of Sparrows’ – pp118 & 126-127 


This extract comes from a book called Notes Toward A Model Opera, which contains a notebooks detailing the birth of Kentridge’s China project, which has the same name. The project was realized on the occasion of his retrospective at the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art, Beijing. In the notebooks, the reader can observe Kentridge’s affinity for mingling the absurd with the coherent and the personal with the political, resulting in a film project that spins a web of connections among the Cultural Revolution in China, the Paris Commune, Africa’s colonial history, and the workings of individual memory.  

Extracts taken from:

1. Interview with Bronwyn Law-Viljoen, in David Krut Publishing’s William Kentridge: Flute – p23

2. ‘I am the Bird Catcher’, essay by Kate McCrickard, in William Kentridge: Flute – pp138-139

3. That Which We Do Not Remember with Jane Taylor – Jane Taylor on the Magic Flute: Doves series – p98/100

4. William Kentridge: Notes Towards A Model Opera – ‘A Death of Sparrows’ – pp118 & 126-127

The David Krut Podcast is a production of David Krut Projects Produced and edited by Hagen Gersie, research and curation of text by Jacqueline Flint & hosted by Britt Lawton

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