Charcoal Matter with Memory: Images of Movement, Time and Duration in the animated films of William Kentridge.

David H. Fleming


In his temporal philosophy based on the writing of Henri Bergson, Gilles Deleuze describes duration (durée) as a becoming that endures in time. Reifications of this complex philosophical concept become artistically expressed, I argue, in the form and content of South African artist William Kentridge's series of 'charcoal drawings for projection.' These exhibited art works provide intriguing and illuminating 'philosophical' examples of animated audio-visual media, which expressively plicate distinct images of movement and time.

The composition of Kentridge's films at once illuminate a regime of animated 'movement-images' that can trace their aetiological roots to classical forms of film and animation, whilst concurrently folding in complex philosophical expressions of time as duration which invoke the crystalline 'time-image' concepts of philosophers such as Bergson and Deleuze, as well as literary authors like Marcel Proust. Over and above these co-existent regimes of movement and time, Kentridge's artistic technique and exhibition practices further expose a multifarious 'geology' of other embedded time lines that serve to enrich/complicate these temporal expressions. I argue here that diegetic time- and movement-images ostensibly co-exist alongside different 'archaeologies' of time relevant to the context and creation of the artworks. For this reason, the animated drawings formulate intriguing artistic/philosophical expressions that muse on the nature of matter, memory, time and space.


Kentridge; Deleuze; Bergson; Time; Space; Duration; Crystal-images; Time-Images; Movement-images; Animation;

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