Felix in Exile, 1994 (video still), single screen projection, 8:43 minutes, sound, color
William Kentridge's works are based on an innovative use of animation techniques inspired by 19th century shadow theater. The desire to both resuscitate and transform the past is also expressed thematically in his works, which examine life in South Africa before, during and after apartheid. These works are characterized by the addition and erasure of parts of drawing fragments - marks and traces that appear and disappear like ghosts.
Felix in Exile examines the nature of national memory when faced with the sacrifices necessary to transition from authoritarian rule. Felix, the film's protagonist, confronts memory and forgetting in the creation of a new South African identity. In History of the Main Complaint, we see Soho the industrialist's comatose body under examination. The scene evolves into a psychological journey through Soho's memory as he surveys various scenes of death. The video Ubu Tells the Truth was inspired by two different sources: accounts of human rights abuses at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings (1996) in South Africa, and King Ubu - the insane dictator from Alfred Jarry's play. This hand drawn cartoon despot becomes a metaphor for the policy of apartheid, torture and destruction. Documentary photography in collage, cut-outs and film footage memorialize events and demonstrations leading up to the end of apartheid and to the 1994 elections.
William Kentridge was born in Johannesburg, South Africa (1955). He holds a B.A. in Politics and African Studies from University Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (1973-1976); he also holds diplomas from the Johannesburg Art Foundation (1976-1978) and from the École Jacques LeCoq, Paris (1981-1982). He has held numerous solo exhibitions at venues including The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1999); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2002); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2004); and the Guggenheim Museum, Berlin (2005). He has participated in numerous group exhibitions at venues including Documenta in Kassel (1997, 2002); the Istanbul Biennial (1999); and the Shanghai Biennale (2000). He lives and works in Johannesburg.