Unreal Nature

October 24, 2015

Falling Into Place

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… the cliché about art is about recognition: ‘I don’t know about art, but I know what I like.’ I always find myself saying the opposite: ‘I know about art, but I don’t know what I like.’

Continuing through That Which Is Not Drawn: William Kentridge & Rosalind C. Morris Conversations (2014):

[ … ]

Rosalind Morris Is there a relationship between that play, which sometimes appears in these ludic forms, these joyous, wildly absurd, you-can-only-laugh forms (which are also sometimes scary), and what appears to be a form of dreamwork? The logic of the process you describe seems to be one of visual association; you see something that solicits the thought of something else, by virtue of some complex kind of resemblance — a coffee plunger and a drill bit, for example, or a corkscrew and a woman in a hooped skirt, a cat and an espresso pot. All of the resemblances depend on seeing from a particular perspective, a point at which difference is utterly overcome.

William Kentridge Yes, I think they’re connected very much to how dreams work or how dreams are constructed. I’m always trying very hard not to do something that feels like a dream, because, as you know, one’s dreams are completely fascinating to oneself, but when you start describing it to someone else, it seems so ad hoc. And I don’t want the film to feel like a dream.

RM Why? Is it because if there’s something about them that is dream-like, one knows one can’t make those associations anywhere else?

WK No, but there’s such a difference between the pressure of things having to make sense in your dream and the lack of need for things to make sense in someone else’s dream when it’s described.

RM That seems like a good point for us to raise the question of the grammar of the world, a phrase you’ve used to describe one of the determining forces in your work and an object for exploration or excavation in drawing. I say that because it is clear from what you have just said that you believe the work has to be legible to others, that it is not enough to give form to the illogic of your own dreams and that legibility depends on a grammar that traverses or motivates the associations linking images in your mind or dreamwork to the world from which they come and in which they can be grasped despite their improbable transformation.

[ … ]

WK … There is a fundamental way in which the cliché about art is about recognition: ‘I don’t know about art, but I know what I like.’ I always find myself saying the opposite: ‘I know about art, but I don’t know what I like.’ So, I look at something. Is it great? Is it not great? I’m very open to persuasion. But having said that, because of the radical uncertainty that we’ve spoken of, I hang on very strongly to things that announce clearly what they are.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] To go back to the horse: I tore out these black paper shapes, then I arranged them. I put together a neck, or a piece which I called a neck, and a smaller piece for a head and long thin pieces for legs. It’s uncertain for a while but there’s a point at which it is unmistakably a horse — you can recognize it as such. And it’s not a matter of saying, ‘Okay, if I look hard, I can try and pretend it’s a horse.’ It’s much more about that horse jumping out insistently at you. It’s the most primitive and basic form of recognition.

[line break added] I am sure there’s a physiological description of how that operates but you don’t do an algorithm of recognition. Maybe your brain, in some strange part, is performing that operation but for living in the world there is a process of instantaneous recognition. Or not, and then you leap, as we said earlier, across the gap which is the failure of recognition. Reading involves the same kind of thing — of those words falling into place, instantaneously. If they don’t, you go through some imaginative jumps, trying to say what those marks could mean.


My most recent previous post from this book is here.




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