Unreal Nature

August 29, 2015

The Drowning Surfeit of Ideas

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… The bastard clash of that which comes in and that which would go out.

Continuing through Six Drawing Lessons: The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures, 2012 by William Kentridge (2014):

… There are many images I would like to show, but they all feel reduced by the context. They become illustrations of an idea, rather than the result of less clear, inchoate provocations, all connected to the idea of Europe and Africa I have been talking about. But not in a programmatic way. I feel I should show images that deny the text of the lecture, or at least are at right angles to it. To show the excess of impulses, the excess of making — a material gluttony to describe the drowning surfeit of ideas, histories, and understandings.

… Calling the history into the studio. The bastard clash of that which comes in and that which would go out. The pressure of the material to be something else. The reams of white paper in the drawer and the ink and charcoal on the worktable, waiting for their collision.

… The studio becomes thick with geography and time, upwards and backwards, from the Herero in German South West Africa, now Namibia, in 1904; Chilembwe in Nyasaland, now Malawi, in 1915, ready to launch his rebellion; slaves being taken further north and west from the coast of Africa; Arab traders arriving from the east; Hegel among the pyramids in 1809. And north, above them all at the top of the map, Plato sitting at the edge of the cave, now looking down into its darkness, now checking the position of the sun.

It is in this impure mixture of history, ideas, and materials that sense tries to emerge — as a drawing, as a film, or here, as a lecture. I feel very strongly the lack of clarity, the jumping from subject to subject in my talk, and shift between wanting to make it smoother, to make more elegant connections, to find arcs of history that have a smoother trajectory between them; between wanting this elegant clarity of a blackboard full of equations reduced to a single line and wanting to insist on the gaps, the non-sequiturs, as it is these gaps and incompletions that make the very space where the work can emerge.

Neither chaos, nor clarity, where the saying badly becomes the pre-condition for new words to emerge.

My most recent previous post from Kentridge’s book is here.




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