I once noted that just as every Shakespearean tragedy ends in a funeral, and every comedy in a wedding, every Kentridge installation ends in a procession. Today, April 21, 2016 is first of two days of Kentridge’s ultimate (so far) procession. Set on the banks of the River Tiber in Rome, Triumphs and Laments celebrates a history of Rome, portrayed in a 550 metre long frieze along the walls of the waterway. Covered in black lichen, the old stone walls have been selectively cleaned around stencils of Kentridge’s figure drawings, so that the ground of the drawings is the remaining lichen itself. Over time, as the lichen reasserts itself over the cleaned background of the figures, the sharp lines delineating the figures will fade.
Tonight and tomorrow night there will a free site specific performance conceived by Kentridge working with long time collaborator composer Philip Miller, combining shadow play, ethereal and beautiful singing and music played on a vast variety of instruments. The project is under the artistic direction of Kristen Jones. Over supper before his departure for Rome, Philip told us that one Italian critic was hailing the event as the most important art event in Rome since the Renaissance painting of the Sistine Chapel. What more is there to say.
Back home in Cape Town, art life has been less spectacular, but still interesting.
On April 5, GIPCA, the Gordon Institute of Performing Arts became the Institute of Creative Arts, now funded by the Mellon Foundation and still under the inspired artistic directorship of Jay Pather. At the opening event in Hiddingh Hall, Gabrielle Goliath risked being tripped over or trodden on when she wrapped herself in a grey blanket and lay across the entrance to the event for the entire evening.
On first Thursday in April, the night when all the galleries are open late, and the streets are packed with gallery and bar hoppers, artist Kemang wa Lehulere and Ilze Wolff collaborated to commemorate the past history of the Alabama Cinema, which once stood site on corner of Loop Street. Housed in a 122 year old building, the cinema would stay open all nights on Friday so those who were still in town late could watch movies until dawn… but in 1984 it was demolished, despite the efforts of the manageress who locked herself and her staff in the building to prevent the demolition crew moving in.
In the shop which occupies the floor of the new building, newspaper cuttings from that era clad boxes of cornflakes and tins of pilchards. On the street, the last film screened when the cinema closed was projected for all to view.
Viewers entertained by the on-screen antics of Sophia Loren, O.J. Simpson et al, included Penny Siopis, visiting London artist Joy Gregory, and Emma Bedford.
Last Thursday, Moshekwa Langa gave a walkabout of his newly opened solo at the Stevenson with a bravura array of new paintings. The first gallery is filled with a forest of tree paintings. Moshekwa described moving into a new house in Amsterdam, painting the skirtings of his new home, then ripping off the masking tape put in place to kept the edges neat. Being Moshekwa, the utliser of all the waste materials everyone else would throw away, this used masking tape transmogrified into the trunks of the trees of the new paintings.
Faced with a forest of these alluring paintings, one felt, that if only one could be alone in the gallery, it might be possible to enter the paintings and slip between the trees.