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Melancholic Constellations: The Art of William Kentridge

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Ian McDonald


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Melancholic Constellations explores the art of William Kentridge, one of the world’s most influential contemporary artist. In this reflective 55 minute documentary, Kentridge talks about being an artist during Apartheid and in “post Anti-Apartheid” South Africa while preparing for his next operatic production, Shostakovich’s The Nose. A range of artists and academics from Johannesburg comment on Kentridge’s art and his approach to art-making. The film moves between Johannesburg where Kentridge lives and Brighton where a major exhibition of his work was hosted by the University of Brighton in 2007. The views from Johannesburg are interspersed with visuals from the exhibition in Brighton. Carried forward by the evocative music of Philip Miller, Melancholic Constellations provides a unique insight into the personal and political forces that shape Kentridge’s art. Melancholic Constellations exists on the cusp of the documentary and the art-film. It is not intended to be a documentary film about an artist, but neither it is intended as an art-film. In terms of filmic practice, it consciously attempts to transcend the boundaries of these particular genres and represents the initial steps towards finding a filmic language (emerging out of the space between documentary and art) that as yet has no name or label, beyond a hyphenated coupling of documentary and art. As such, Melancholic Constellations represents an innovative form of film praxis that constitutes a critique of genre as an act of boundary formation, and calls for a documentary practice that is organic (rather than contrived and shaped by extrinsic factors), reflexive (rather than uncritically accepting conventions of genre or form), and where the primary consideration is aesthetic (rather than utility).

Publication metadata

Author(s): McDonald I

Publication type: Digital or Visual Media

Publication status: Published

Year: 2010

Source Publication Date: First screening: December 2010

Series Editor(s): Produced by Tom Hickey and Ian McDonald

Publisher: Interventions

Place Published: Brighton, UK

Type: DVD and USB portfolio

Format: 55mins/Colour/HDV/English

Credits: Filmed, directed and edited by Ian McDonald