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William Kentridge

Notes Towards a Model Opera and In Mockery of Progress


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  • From May 13, 2017 to Aug. 12, 2017

  • Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. / Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. /Closed Mondays

  • Sala 39. Al filo del milenio. Arte argentino de los 90

It is an honor for the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes to present, for the first time in Argentina, the work of William Kentridge, thanks to this institution's joint efforts with BP17, Buenos Aires's Performance Biennial.

The works on exhibition will be the video installation Notes Towards a Model Opera and the series of watercolors on printed pages In Mockery of Progress, both from 2015 – works in which, through different media, Kentridge restores to art its explicit political dimension, exposing, with sarcasm and humor, the disasters of our era.

In 1958, Mao Tse Tung launched the slogan “May a thousand flowers bloom"; he urged the unlimited development of all possible currents of thought. A decade later, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) brought with it the largest "revolutionary" disciplining of the population, which included a ban on … public exhibition of flowers. Humiliation of officials in "scenes of reeducation," the torture, imprisonment, and confinement in "labor camps" of millions of people who were considered heirs to cultural tradition, which was declared null and void by decree, were, for over ten years, the stuff of daily life.

William Kentridge offers an ironic reading of those tragic situations as he takes on the "model revolutionary operas" Chiang-Chin (Madame Mao) devised as a critical tool for eradicating bourgeois thought. But his venture into this material has a twist to it: it is the African revolutionaries inspired by Maoism who dance, with rifles and in ethnic dress, vernacular versions of the International, parodying the scenes of ridicule the "revisionists" were subjected to. This dance harbors a paradox: it was through these very means that China achieved its current-day colonization of Africa. The dazibao (slogans scrawled in ideograms) dialogue with Kentridge's travel diaries and show how these precepts were adapted into efforts aimed "to come up with the least good idea." Thus he proceeds to question fiercely the powers by which they evolve into a sinister mascarade, no less brutal for all its absurdity.

Andrés Duprat
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes

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