“The work is sometimes about trying to recreate the strength of a passion when it was first felt, whether it’s anger or distress,” artist William Kentridge has commented on his animated drawings. “The amnesia people have about what South Africa is and where we’ve come from, on the one hand, it’s a kind of a willful amnesia. But on the other hand, it does correspond to such a quick naturalization of the circumstances that we live in. It’s kind of hard to remember what that world was.”
Beyond amnesia, willful or otherwise, Kentridge’s Other Faces suggests that memory can also take the form of escapist nostalgia, as it does for Soho Eckstein, a white industrialist and land developer living in a South Africa where the color of his skin no longer affords him the easy superiority it once did. Eckstein is a long-time protagonist of Kentridge’s “Drawings for Projection,” a series of animations created by filming successive erasures and reconstitutions of large-scale charcoal drawings. Since his inaugural appearance in 1989’s Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City after Paris, Eckstein has weathered the end of Apartheid, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (referenced metaphorically in History of the Main Complaint, 1996), and, in Other Faces, a car collision with an African preacher in downtown Johannesburg. The violence of the altercation that follows between the two drivers is juxtaposed with Eckstein’s childhood memories of a loving family untouched by the strife of Apartheid-era life in South Africa. In Other Faces, remembering is a fraught problem of its own.
Label from Screen Play: Life in an Animated World, June 20–September 13, 2015