A New William Kentridge Video Exhibition Is Planned for Venice

The video series will debut in Venice and be available to stream online.

Still from Self-Portrait as a Coffee Pot, Episode 1: A Natural History of the Studio (2022). HD Video, 22 min 03 sec. Photo: Courtesy of William Kentridge.

The South African artist William Kentridge will debut his latest work, Self-Portrait As a Coffee Pot, at the Arsenale Institute for Politics of Representation in Venice this April. The new conceptual series of nine 30-minute videos was produced in the artist’s Johannesburg studio between 2020 and 2023 and explores how we make and experience art in the digital age.

“Filming began in the first lockdown and the studio mimicked the closed spaces of Covid,” Kentridge explained in a press statement. “But the studio is also an enlarged head, a chamber for thoughts and reflections, where all the drawings, photos, detritus on the walls become these thoughts.”

To emphasize this connection between the inner workings of the mind and the external environment, Kentridge has created an immersive installation to house the video works that roughly mimics the dimensions of his own studio. In one sense, it is a deeply private enclosure to which an artist retreats to ruminate, but it also becomes a communal, collaborative space of the kind that briefly became impossible during the pandemic years.

Intended to be viewed online, the series meets contemporary audiences where they live but uses the medium to invite more expansive reflection on the same philosophical questions that Kentridge poses to himself across the episodes. How do our memories work? What makes us ourselves? Why does history always go wrong?

the same man appears twice, drawing an artwork on the wall

Still from Self-Portrait as a Coffee Pot, Episode 3: Vanishing Points (2022). HD Video, 34 min 19 sec. Photo: Courtesy of William Kentridge.

Kentridge’s art “stems from an attempt to address the nature of human emotions and memory, as well as the relationship between knowledge, desire, ethics, practice, and responsibility,” said Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, a long-time friend of Kentridge who has curated this new presentation in Venice. “His is an elegiac yet humorous art that explores the possibilities of poetry in contemporary society, even in the absence of utopian visions for the future, and provides an acerbic commentary on our society, while proposing a way of seeing life as a continuous process of change and uncertainty rather than as a controlled world of facts.”

Kentridge is celebrated for his monochromatic drawings, theatrical animations, and operas that reflect on recent decades of rapid social and political change in his home country of South Africa. It was recently announced that he has left Marian Goodman Gallery to join the roster at Hauser & Wirth. He will continue to be represented by Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg and London, and Galleria Lia Rumma in Naples.

Self-Portrait as a Coffee Pot will be on public view at Arsenale Institute for Politics of Representation in Venice from April 17 through November 24, 2024. The series is also available to stream via MUBI. 

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