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'I could've spent years in misery as an actor who never got leading roles'

20 November 2020 7:45 PM
Tags:
William Kentridge
Upside of Failure

William Kentridge says failure is a subject close to him and one has to make a space in which doubt can float.

Failure is not beautiful but it is something that is necessary because it allows us to see the stark reality that you may be missing. There are gaps in what we see and it allows us to see those.

Talking about failure is crucial for growth.

Today we explore the failure pile of one of South Africa's pre-eminent contemporary artists, Willaim Kentridge. He is a draftsman, performer, and filmmaker, as well as the founder of The Centre for the Less Good Idea.

Having collaborated on original works with a number of artists and performers, he plays, according to the centre, the roles of performer, collaborator, facilitator, and more.

Failure is a subject close to me. There are three or four failures which, in retrospect, I am grateful for. Failure is always suffered as a defeat something very painful. It's not like someone sets out to fail.

William Kentridge, Artist

To give an example, at one stage I thought I wanted to be an actor and I went to a theatre school in Paris to learn to be an actor and I discovered after three weeks that I should not be an actor. In a way that was relief afterwards because I thought if I had been at first less thorough, if I have been almost okay, I could have spent years in misery as an actor who never quite got the roles I wanted, never got chosen for the main parts, never had success as an actor, but there was enough going on to keep working. This would never have been a realistic professional activity. It's a relief, it takes it off the agenda and you can go on to a different field.

William Kentridge, Artist

At one stage I tried writing film scripts. Thank goodness those scrips were never made. If they would have been slightly okay, maybe they wouldn't have been bad, but that would have been a failure of a film, they were so thorough possibly bad.

William Kentridge, Artist

Years later I discovered when I was working with the Handspring Puppet Company in theatre and directing and making animated films so the experience in the filming industry came in useful. In retrospect, all those I had failed at came in to be part of the substance of the way that I work. It's a long journey back to them. There are many of them. When I was young I wanted to be a conductor of an orchestra, then somebody said to me to be a conductor of an orchestra you had to be able to read music. I then said really, I didn't know it to be like that. let's recalibrate, let's do something different.

William Kentridge, Artist

We did a project a few years ago, scientists, actors and musicians and it was about the nature of time. We tried many different ways of approaching it. One tried to make it like an artificial trombone or tuber with hosepipes and air pump and it just didn't work, we couldn't mimic what the human limps do on a brass instrument so we abandoned.

William Kentridge, Artist

We had an exhibition of things we tried and didn't work to show the things that didn't work. Of course, as soon as we had that idea everyone wanted to have an object for the room of failure. So everyone was trying to make ideas that didn't work at all and that failed as failures. In the end, we had to abandon that room. The room itself was a failure.

William Kentridge, Artist

One has to make a space in which doubt can float because if you're only to say I'm only gonna do something that I am certain about you are either kidding yourself or you'll wait for a very long time.

William Kentridge, Artist

Listen below for the full interview...


20 November 2020 7:45 PM
Tags:
William Kentridge
Upside of Failure

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