September 3, 2010 · Print This Article
Review of the Art documentary “William Kentridge: Anything is Possible”
I love Art documentaries, I have watched almost every one that I could get my hands on over the years much to the displeasure of my wallet (they are always more expensive then theÂ averageÂ film) and anyone I share a Netflix account with (watch enough art films and Netflix will make all sorts of assumptions about you in it’sÂ recommendedÂ filmsÂ algorithm).
Art docs have always been for me a great way to survey the work, personality, and tone of any artist. Its rare that the average person can get one on one time with an Artist of interest and when you do it’s more often after they have talked to 40 people before you and are 8 cups deep into the free beer or wine the gallery/school/institution/art fair put out. So in effect you get less thenÂ stellarÂ conversationsÂ (not always mind you, theÂ exceptionsÂ are often amazing) or and this is the truth for anyone artist, politician, scientist, what have you; that its hard to always be “on” and be able to talkÂ extemporaneouslyÂ and with give and take about your work. Art professors the world over try to beat the need for this skill into their students but the dirty secret is the professors often times are no better and have been no better for 20+ years. Fact is it’s a hard skill to learn for anyone and Art docs help with the magic of editing to give you the best moments of conversation possible.
Thats why its so saddening when you often times see artists speak vaugly, paradoxically, or with a straight faced serious non sequitur, much as the case with Art:21’s first feature length, solo artist film outside of the biennialÂ Art in the Twenty-First Century series. Art:21’s “William Kentridge: Anything is Possible” is a well directed film with good production values. “Anything is Possible” has everything I look for in a good Art doc except William Kentridge is the typical “say nothing by saying much” artist in the film and this is after the director/editor has worked to make it as structured, poignantÂ &Â narrativelyÂ focused as possible since it is in their best interest to do so.
It’s kind of painful to watch after a while since it is clear with how Kentridge’s monologues are woven into the tapestry of the film as intros or outros to scenes and quickly cut that the production team didn’t really know how to make use of statements like “making art was a way ofÂ arrivingÂ atÂ knowledgeÂ that was not subject to cross examination” and treated hisÂ narrationÂ more like a soundtrack to pop a scene or set a tone, not to make aÂ statementÂ to be followed by theÂ audience. Very little of what William Kentridge says in the film sheds light on his youth, early career, family, later career or deeper intent other then then the very basic themes of aÂ pieceÂ or style.
Having said this his skill as a stop motion filmaker, animator & stylized puppeteer is very facinating. His highly graphic, russian constructivism style of working has great impact and the director of “Anything is Possible” made strong use of this fact. The film by and large is a visual symphony of the various components that Kentridge uses in his practice, introducing them one at a time and then at the last movement bringing them all together in one operatic scene with as much scope as possible. Where the end of the film centers around the ArtistsÂ collaborationÂ with the Metropolitan Opera in a performance of Shostakovitch’s 1928 work “The Nose”. Then you see the shadow puppets, the animated drawing, the mix of 3d & 2d interaction, the projections that swallow the entire stage making humans look like ants & the politicalÂ pageantryÂ that winds it’s way through much of Kentridge’s work. Then and saddly only then does the film start to pay off.
I love the series Art:21 and know how difficult it is to organize, finance and execute interviews, artists, performances & such but I walk away from this first long form solo film wishing they had picked someone else to showcase and the feeling it was actually a behind the scenes for a yet to be released Met Opera DVD. Kentridge’s work and in many ways the man himself is so esoteric that few will be able to really sink their teeth into this or even care to try? I am not saying make the first film on anything asÂ extremeÂ as the out of favorÂ Chapman brothers or zeitgeistÂ Shepard Fairey but something moreÂ accessibleÂ and of interest to the twenty first century might be apropos.
The first line of the film is “My job is to make drawings not sense” which I realize he says to elicit a response from the audience of 60-70 year olds that are inÂ attendanceÂ (watch the film and like Where’s Waldo find someone born after Tang was invented) but it is sadly true of his general take on thisÂ opportunityÂ to speak to a larger audience, anÂ occasionÂ that he drops and never picks up. You see when I said earlier that the average person rarely gets a one on one with an Artist they are interested in it is doubly so for an artist to get the opportunityÂ to broadly speak to a captive audience in such a way as this and when you do: teach us, illuminate us, speak to us, move us for sadly in life you get one or two chances at most and we move on to someone who will.
The broadcast premiere of “William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible” takes place this October 21 at 10:00 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings). Susan Sollins, Art:21’s Executive Director & director of this documentary made a good film out of a poor subject choice, hopefully next time a more fitting and engaging person will be showcased.
Mike Benedetto is still on a religious retreat to Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan or Stan “The Man” Musial…… one of the three I can’t remember which anymore. Regardless as a gift he (by not saying I couldn’t via email) has enabled me to release a 7 part 70 minute movie review of the worst film that everyone waited 26 hours in line for while it rained and slept on concrete with the curb as a pillow, yes “The Phantom Menace”.
Now you may ask yourself “Self, what can you say in 70 minutes that can’t be said in 10 (even with bonus seconds) do you just say the word “suck” over and over till it stops sounding like a real word?” to that I would say see a therapist since your talking to yourself and also reply you can say a lot. Trust me start watching and quit whenever you want but don’t make any plans for the next hour or so.
Enjoy your present from all of us here at Bad at Sports, the wibby as a whole and the kind gentleman who actually did all the work to make this review Red Letter Media, based out of Milwaukee, WI & Chicago, IL.
With the financial market squeezing donors, collectors and the backers of the art market, the word recession has been a new mantra that has plagued the New York art scene. This week Amanda Browder (host of the Amanda Browder Show) and Tom Sanford (BAS reporter and artiste) talk with Craig Houser (curator), Les Rogers (artist) and John Lee (dealer/gallery owner) about the current financial recession in New York and how it compares to the most recent recession in the 80’s. Watch out Elizabeth Peyton, your neck is first.
Next: Mike Benedetto (jackass, BAS film critic) reviews The Watchmen.
IMPORTANT: be sure to stick around after the credits for a very special and heart rending public service announcement from Mike, that, much to his surprise, I actually did run in the show. Read more
This week: Brian and Patricia sit down with Southern Exposure’s executive director Courtney Fink. Courtney describes how one of San Francisco’s oldest non-profit art spaces evolved during its many recent relocations around the mission district.
Southern Exposure is a 34 year old, non-profit, artist-run organization dedicated to presenting diverse, innovative, contemporary art, arts education, and related programs and events in an accessible environment. Southern Exposure reaches out to diverse audiences and serves as a forum and resource center to provide extraordinary support to the Bay Area’s arts and educational communities. Activities range from exhibitions of local, regional, and international visual artists’ work, education programs, and lectures, panel discussions, and performances. Southern Exposure is dedicated to giving artistsâ€”whether they are exhibiting, curating, teaching, or learningâ€”an opportunity to realize ideas for projects that may not otherwise find support.
ALSO: Mike Benedetto reviews Twilight! Mike’s masterpiece of criticism. He imitates a werewolf. Not to be missed!
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