… wherever you open the book, he would be there — sleeping, walking, spending his time …
[ … ]
Rosalind Morris You have spoken about things being trapped in books, ideas being trapped in books, and the implication is that they — the trapped things — want to get out or should be liberated, but much of your work is on the surface of books. It is an invocation of books and a citation of books but the book itself is as much an object as a content.
William Kentridge Yes, I use the book as a support for actual drawings, drawing actually on the pages of books.
[ … ]
RM I heard Orhan Pamuk in a conversation with Andreas Huyssen, describing his reading life as having two stages. In the first part of his life he read desperately and with absolute passion, but needy passion, to form himself. He was running and reading through the lettered world, asking who was being what, what are the options, finding nearly infinite possibilities for self-transformation in fiction.
[line break added to make this easier to read online] And then at some point in his life, and this is a point that he grieves, he realized he had stopped reading to form himself and had started reading to confirm himself. And then, if I recall, he said he’s become a different man — he’s no longer becoming anything else. And this induces in him a kind of melancholy. But I recognize it. I myself have a kind of nostalgia for that maddened reading that one did as a young person.
WK And to think ‘Oh my god, how lucky, here is someone who has never yet read that book — it’s still ahead of them.’ …
[ … ]
WK I had a poster in my childhood, for many years, done by Dumile Feni [South African artist, 1942-91], advertising a jazz concert at Mofolo Hall in Soweto. It had a great drawing of jazz musicians. It was an ammonia dye-transfer architect’s poster and finally faded away and disappeared. But it had a text which intrigued me for years: ‘With is no charge.’ It drove me crazy. It was not just saying ‘no charge’ or ‘with no charge’ or ‘is free’ or, even, ‘with no charge.’ If it did, I certainly would not have remembered it for forty years. So, when I talk about awkwardness, or riddles one wants to solve, those things that one desires to set right or make sense of — that’s what compels you.
[ … ]
WK … There is a tract in a book, from the middle ages, or the fifteenth century, which describes a political prisoner in, I think, France. He was a sultan from somewhere in the East, who had been captured in one of the Crusades and brought back to France and held as a prisoner of war for twenty years. His brother, the new sultan, didn’t want him released and so wouldn’t pay the ransom. …
[line break added] So, wherever you open the book, he would be there — sleeping, walking, spending his time marking the wall … The book as prison. [ … ] The fact that you have a person in a text that changes — you can turn the page to find that he’s still there, you can turn back and find he’s still there walking, then, over there, sleeping, then fifty pages later he’s still sleeping …
[ … ]
WK … it makes one think — all this thinking, all this writing, all this time, that this man is still here. Yet there’s even more thinking and time passing in the writing of that text. It’s an extraordinary embodiment of mind.
My most recent previous post from this book is here.