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Meditative and animated Kentridge film screens at Eastman Museum

Jan 27, 2021

A still from William Kentridge: Second-hand Reading.
Credit Eastman Museum

The Eastman Museum’s Dryden Theatre and galleries remain closed for the time being, but visitors to the historic mansion can view a film currently screening in the Multipurpose Hall.

Acclaimed South African artist William Kentridge, who is known for his prints and drawings and for erasing and re-marking his drawings to create stop-motion animated films.

In the case of “Second-hand Reading” -- on view through Sunday, Jan. 31, at Eastman Museum, 900 East Ave. -- Kentridge has created a flip-book-style film from a succession of drawings on the pages of old books.

Splicing a 1914 edition of Cassell’s Cyclopaedia of Mechanics with pages from a 1936 publication of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, he rendered figures, landscapes, and poetic aphorisms on the pages using charcoal, ink, and watercolor. The meditative animation is set to a piano score and traditional funeral hymn in the Sesotho language performed by the composer Neo Muyanga, in response to the 2012 police massacre of 34 striking mine workers at Marikana, South Africa.

As the music rises and rests, a lone figure strolls, head down, hands in pockets, while a landscape races by on the facing pages, occasionally interrupted by a rapidly changing series of illustrations of objects. In a statement provided by the Eastman Museum, Kentridge described this work as “a kind of material depiction of one’s head, of the number of thoughts that can zoom past, like the phrases in a dictionary or encyclopedia.”

Admission is $5-$15; hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, go to eastman.org.

Rebecca Rafferty is CITY's life editor. She can be reached at becca@rochester-citynews.com.