William Kentridge  16 July until 25 November 2012

Black Box/Chambre Noire

From 16 July to 25 November the Jewish Historical Museum presents the exhibition Black Box/Chambre Noire by William Kentridge. This multimedia installation was commissioned by Deutsche Bank and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and was exhibited in 2005 at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin. The JHM's presentation of Black Box/Chambre Noire is Kentridge's first exhibition in the Netherlands. 

William Kentridge (Johannesburg 1955) is one of the most celebrated and respected artists in the world. Over the past few decades he has developed a working method that fuses drawing, animation, collage, printmaking and theatre. His principal body of work comprises powerful charcoal drawings, which he transforms into animated films: drawing, erasing and revising as he films.

Kentridge's work is characterised by strong social engagement, informed by his identity as a white Jewish South African, the son of politically engaged lawyers. He describes his work as 'politically concerned, but distanced'.

Black Box/Chambre Noire is a mechanical theatre in which six mechanical figures perform in turn for twenty-one minutes against a backdrop of projected animated charcoal drawings. Approximately fifty associated drawings are displayed around the theatre. Philip Miller wrote the musical composition, incorporating fragments of Mozarts Zauberflöte and Namibian music.

The historical background to Black Box is German colonialism in Africa and in particular the destruction of the Herero and Nama peoples in South-West Africa (now Namibia) between 1904 and 1907, considered by the United Nations to be the first genocide of the twentieth century. This historical event touched on Kentridge's South African identity, raising questions about 'facts', complicity, grief and reconciliation. Kentridge calls Black Box a 'Trauerarbeit', referring to Freud's belief that a person can work through grief by actively reliving the trauma.

The JHM has organised the exhibition in partnership with Deutsche Bank and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. The events programme, Stedelijk@JHM, has been developed together with the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Kentridge's new chamber opera Refuse the Hour will be performed on 18 and 19 June in Frascati as part of the Holland Festival.