Unreal Nature

November 21, 2015

Acts of Disremembering

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… the images begin to transform into others, showing the actual consumption of one memory or totem by the next.

This is from the essay ‘The Process of Change: Landscape, Memory, Animation, and Felix in Exile’ by Staci Boris, found in the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago’s catalog William Kentridge (2001):

Pierneef’s landscapes of the 1950s illustrate the “myth born of a naturalized connection between Afrikaner volk and their land. The deep V-perspective of Pierneef’s landscapes, the simplification of form, the stark monumentality suggesting a comprehensible order are the very means and metaphor of a Calvinist fundamentalism.” Pierneef’s palette of lavenders, pinks, and yellows, as well as his artificial stylization of the topography, literally and metaphorically mold the land into a form compatible with nationalistic attitudes, letting desire and fantasy (read: entitlement) appear as fact.

early (1928) Pierneef

Kentridge believed these works to be “deliberate acts of disremembering” as they bore no traces of history nor any resemblance to the South African landscape of his own experience: “I had not seen, and in many ways feel I have not yet seen, a picture that corresponds to what the South African landscape feels like. I suppose my understanding of the countryside is an essentially urban one. It has to do with visions from the roadside, with landscape that is articulated, or given a meaning by incidents across it, pieces of civil engineering, the lines of pipes, culverts, fences.”

[line break added to make this easier to read online] He adopted a strategy of driving prescribed distances into the countryside and drawing that which presented itself. This experiment proved to him that wherever he went, whichever direction he followed, the traces of human intervention were inescapable and were, in fact, the most compelling and relevant parts of his environs. The South Africa of his drawings and films resists the consummate “Africa as Eden” of his artistic predecessors …


Kentridge’s landscapes not only represent the disorderliness of a person’s thoughts but also recall a theoretical model of forgetting in which each bit of memory is stored, until it is eventually displaced by another. This concept suggests that memories are not categorized, they are stored in a place that has no boundaries where document freely intermingles with diary. This approach is taken even further in Kentridge’s animated work in which, given the nature of animation, the images begin to transform into others, showing the actual consumption of one memory or totem by the next.





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