Unreal Nature

September 5, 2015

White Pastel Over an Erased Gray

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

… The person shot, the provoking shot, disintegrates into the tone, the line, the contrast of the drawing. … Right up against the paper, the activity of finding the image is just the material and the belief …

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

… The land is an unreliable witness. It is not that it effaces all history, but events must be excavated, sought after in traces, in half-hidden clues. There is a similarity to the land and what it does, and our unreliable memory. Things which seemed so clear and so embedded in us, fade; a shock, an outrage that we should live by, becomes dull. We have to work to find that first, true impulse. A forest we know contained mass killings is filled with wind in the leaves. Only a section where the trees are shorter, in a straight line, marks the spot of the mass grave. A change of color in the vegetation marks where there were once foundations of a prison block. What should be proclaimed clearly — HERE THIS HAPPENED, let us not forget — becomes ever thinner, ever harder to see, the landscapes and our memory push it farther away, until we get lost in the undergrowth.

Even our outrage is lost. We are left with something closer to regret. Regret at what happened, but also regret at our inability to hold onto our feeling. We are deceived by the landscape. Not only deceived, but disappointed, betrayed. The landscape, and our memory, should be that much stronger.

… Finding the traces: the edge of a foundation, the straight lines of the trees. Knowing that when we put up a sign or a label — this event happened in this space, this monument is erected to the memory of — we admit defeat. We hand the responsibility of memory to the sign, to the object. It becomes a canned memory, like canned laughter on a TV show, which laughs on our behalf, it remembers on our behalf, it does the work for us. We are let off the hook.

[ … ]

… The activity of drawing itself. The concentration shifts position. The image becomes a series of marks and decisions. The person shot, the provoking shot, disintegrates into the tone, the line, the contrast of the drawing. Over the paper hovers a projection of the figure, but overlaying it too are all the other bodies: Goya’s spread-eagled man from The Third of May; Giotto’s Massacre of the Innocents; the flayed skin of Marseus. But then they too are too far from the paper. Right up against the paper, the activity of finding the image is just the material and the belief that this material will transform itself back into the image — the darkness of the line, the texture of the paper, white pastel over an erased gray.

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

-Julie

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