Commissaires / Curators : Bisi Silva & Antawan I. Byrd
South African artist William Kentridge (born 1955) is best known for his labour-intensive animated drawings, printmaking practice, and the- atrical productions, which diversely attempt to make sense of the world through visual and sonic investigations of knowledge and time. Kentridge’s Second-Hand Reading (2013) is a flipbook film that appropriates an antiquated encyclopaedia, using its pages as the support for drawings in charcoal and Indian ink, graphic designs in watercolour, and pithy English text elements rendered with thick typography. As divergent animation sequences unfurl across riffling book pages, the film deconstructs and plays with associations between reading and storytelling, memory and time.
Second-Hand Reading begins with the artist’s hands opening the black cover of the bulky encyclopaedia. Kentridge manually turns the book’s first few pages, jumpstarting the quick and unas-
sisted movement of the pages as a musical score by the South-African musician Neo Muyanga begins to play. With the rapid succession of pages, the viewer is inundated with a wealth of visual matter that appears and disappears only to reappear again in different forms throughout the video’s 11-minute duration. The viewer encounters images that have become a hallmark of Kentridge’s visual production : self-portraits of the artist pacing in thought, views of the South African landscape, trees indigenous to Johannesburg, coffee pots that morph into birds, megaphones replaced by telephones, and metronomes that give way to typewriters. Through the sonic layering of Muyanga’s elegiac voice, Second-Hand Reading aestheticizes the rapid accretion of visual information. With images and text arriving as quickly as they depart, reading becomes a fleeting experience, one in which the acquisition of knowledge is left to quick impressions or limited to what the mind can store in a matter of seconds.