It is rare that a lecture has the power to alter your way of of seeing the world–even momentarily. For the past 48 hours I have been walking and thinking, trying to reconcile the images surrounding me with sounds floating between me and my environment. After back-to-back lectures by William Kentridge at The University of Chicago, my head is left swarming with so many questions it becomes hard to catch my breath.
Kentridge presented his work in Thursday’s lecture titled “Listening to the Image” in the vein of a workshop, accompanied by two members of the Lyric Opera. Poetically analyzing the magic, mystery, and philosophical discrepancies between sound and image, the lecture did not attempt to address the arc of the artist’s career nor did it provide a concrete thesis about the nature of sound or collaboration, but rather invited the audience to participate in experiments of looking as Kentridge lead us through several iteration of works-in-progress, testing the same aria with a variety of animations and vice versa. Both casual and evocative, the lecture was rooted in question and portrayed art making as open and infinite as sound itself. “The studio is a safe place for stupidity”, Kentridge said, encouraging not knowing as a vital perspective for creating.
Writer and curator Jane Taylor joined Kentridge on Friday evening in a public conversation centered around collaboration. Both artists seemed prepared to let the conversation take whatever shape the audience wanted as they answered questions ranging from the role of puppetry in several theatrical works to the dangers of certainty in politics. “Be wary of great successes,” Taylor warned us. “But celebrate paltry triumphs”.
It was a joy to experience a lecture with rather than by the artist. The structure of both evenings reconciled the gap between the typical viewer vs. maker hierarchy and generously allowed the audience a feeling of total collaboration in creating the presented work. Triumphs indeed.