No. 044 DESIGN & CURATION OF THE WILLIAM KENTRIDGE EXHIBITION AT ZEITZ MOCAA
Theme: Sustainable Design
Exploring the Zeitz MOCAA is an extraordinary experience on any given day, but the current exhibition by William Kentridge, Why Should I Hestitate: Putting drawings to work, amplifies the visit. As well as being the largest body of work ever presented by South Africa’s most recognised living artist, it is a show that truly demonstrates the value of great curation and scenography. Charcoal drawings, woodcut prints, stop-frame animation, tapestries, installation and video are all on view, made that much more impactful by their careful arrangement and the layout of the rooms in which they stand.
“The curatorial process was quite complex,” says Zeitz MOCAA Curatorial Assistant and Co-curator of the exhibition Tammy Langtry. She explains how they had to lay out the chronology of Kentridge’s career and provide insight into the many materials and collaborative processes with which he works while also dealing with the artist’s dedication to world history in relation to contemporary Africa – all in one exhibition.
Scenographer Sabine Theunissen, who has worked on some of Kentridge’s most important shows since 2014, played an integral role in capturing these ideas through the spatial and interior setup of each of the five independent spaces that make up the exhibition. “The scenography is the link between the artwork and the visitor,” she explains. “It is a staging of the work in the space, to facilitate the journey in the artistic narrative, shaping a route and momentum, like for an opera, starting with an overture, growing to a climax, offering magic transitions or transformations.” The scenography of Why Should I Hesitate provokes a sensory experience that heightens emotions and invites reflection through its use of materials, sound, time, space and architecture.
Due to the museum’s interior design, one is automatically led from one gallery to the next, allowing the exhibition to progress naturally. “It’s like going from one scene to the next,” says Langtry, comparing it to a film, while explaining how some of the galleries have become almost unrecognisable as part of a museum. Immersive rooms, like a studio, reading room and etching gallery, give viewers a deeper understanding of Kentridge’s oeuvre. “The visitor can be part of the display – not only watching, but participating, reading, lying on a sofa, feeling ‘home’,” says Theunissen of her design that uses warm, organic materials to create comfort rather than disconnect.
Probably the most admired part of the exhibition is the reading room. Here, a library of wooden shelves, with a large table, intimate reading lamps and wallpaper decorated with Kentridge’s large-scale flowers, stops some visitors in their tracks. “It’s a room where they can pause and sit, read books, talk, study, write, watch and listen to a video, as if they are a guest in a private place, out of time. I regard it as an invitation for visitors to become guests,” says Theunissen.
100 Beautiful Things is presented by the V&A Waterfront in celebration of South Africa’s creativity, compassion, ingenuity and resilience. Every week we will be showcasing five amazingly beautiful creative things that make us proud. It is curated in partnership with Platform Creative.