The Refusal of Time: William Kentridge

William Kentridge’s magnetising practice manifests in the form of ‘Thick Time’ at Whitechapel Gallery this season. The South African artist’s hypnotic installations engulf the east-end gallery, where his use of film, music and shadow-play demonstrate a thoroughly immersive and theatric experience.

Most entrancing is Kentridge’s installation ‘The Refusal of Time’ (2012). Set upon a five-channel video projection and accompanied by a thrumming musical composition, the artwork unravels like an asteroid belt circling what is referred to as a ‘breathing machine’ in the centre of the room. This exhaling contraption impersonates a metronome, setting a regular beat to mark the thick time Kentridge is attempting to unpack and measure.

Choral overlays pad the darkened room with poetic melodies. Rhythmic lyrics announce cryptic messages of ‘in praise of productive procrastination’, ‘he that fled his fate’ and ‘here I am’. And hypnotising, sharp shadows dance around observers, drawing crowds into their otherworldly parade, only to disintegrate into flittering embers moments later.

The pounding dance and music of Kentridge’s ‘Refusal of Time’ is utterly mesmerising. The installation’s dreamlike sequence is a vivid measure of time that lends space to concerns of society and its controlled development. These sociopolitical themes adjacent to fantastical aesthetic imagery sustains Kentridge’s far-reaching practice in contemporary art. The artist contributes to those rare dreamers whom Voltaire refers to as the few who are ‘able to raise themselves above the ideas of time’.

The visionary practice of William Kentridge is on display at Whitechapel Gallery until 15 January, be sure to see it before it closes this weekend.

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