William Kentridge: Animation as Transformation Unit Overview This unit explores the artistic processes, themes, and subject

matter through which South African artist William Kentridge addresses the concept of transformation in his art. Kentridge was born in 1955 in Johannesburg, South Africa and is arguably (i.e., in my opinion) the most prolific, influential artist dealing with the intense social history of that country working today. His art deals with social and personal histories, the role of art and the artist in society, and narrative and storytelling. Spontaneity, play, and collaboration are essential elements of Kentridge’s creative processes, which include (but are not limited to): charcoal drawings and animations, various experimental film and projection techniques, mechanical/hinged shadow puppets for projection, collage, tapestries, sculpture, printmaking, live performance, set and costume design, and opera. Students will understand the significance of the fact that Kentridge works in so many different ways as his mode of exploring multiple modes of perceiving and interpreting the world around us. This unit focuses on the charcoal drawing animations for which Kentridge is perhaps best known, a medium that is itself a transformative process: from one sheet of paper, Kentridge animates an entire film. He begins with a single charcoal composition, continues to rework the image- drawing, erasing, and re-drawing- and photographs each step of the process over time, capturing each mark and erasure. That the marks still linger despite erasure and the drawing/erasing/re-drawing process reveals itself in the final product reflects the idea of transformation as cyclical process of becoming and disintegration that makes us aware of the temporality of perception. Kentridge notes that every movement leaves behind faded, ghostly traces, making the process a visible part of the work itself and says that this reflects his belief that life is about “understanding the world as process, rather than fact.” Students will use an inquiry-based approach to thinking about William Kentridge’s art through critical questions, description, visual analysis, interpretation, and judgment of his animated films and other works. Students will investigate the historical narrative of apartheid in South Africa, a main point of focus in much of Kentridge’s art and understand technical and historical aspects of animation to look at Kentridge’s charcoal drawing animations in the context of that artistic tradition. This unit meets the needs and interests of our upper level studio in art students by dealing with sophisticated conceptual challenges and advanced artistic techniques that build on a basic arts foundation. Through a series of unit lessons students will explore Kentridge’s artistic processes and utilize some of those techniques in projects that use his vision as a jumping off point to address issues relevant to their own lives.