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Second Hand Reading
William Kentridge
Artwork 2012
Artist William Kentridge Title Second Hand Reading Date 2012 Materials Single channel HD film Dimensions 7 min 1 sec Edition Edition of 9

Kentridge’s flipbook film Second Hand Reading is a work of retrospective overview. Here, the artist’s many thematic and material intrigues coincide, as do the obscure symbols that have come to furnish his distinct lexicon. With pictures and text drawn onto the pages of Cassell’s Encyclopaedia of Mechanics, Kentridge’s film pairs the definitive with the associative. His lasting consideration of the book as form and sign extends to consider paper and trees, language and landscape, linearity and history. There are few classifications and definitions here, where images shift and transform. Dancing back and forth between pages, the film is composed of fragments and invocations, repetitions and deferments. Whilst, the overpainted text reads, so, when, and, then. Whichever page you open – read words that appear besides drawings of the artist walking – there you are. And there he is, stalking the pages of books as he paces his studio; the antihero to an uncertain drama.

Second Hand Reading features music by Neo Muyanga.

Thinking aloud in charcoal, William Kentridge begins always with drawings. These drawings propose themselves, he suggests, “not as a finished, finite fact, but something that is provisional,” as process rather than endpoint. Indeed, few of the artist’s drawings remain in their preliminary state; most are reimagined as prints, videos, installations, tapestries, sculptures, performances and theatrical productions. Kentridge draws without hesitation – his mark-making assured, his gestures spontaneous and unself-conscious. There is to all his work this unpolished lustre, a studied unrefinement, which is always sure but never exact. Kentridge is no stranger to error, to mishaps and missteps. On the contrary, he invites such uncertain elements into his studio, looking to the less good idea, the secondary thought that shadows the first. In subject, Kentridge leans towards the absurd, his work more often a confusion of fact and fiction – where those based on historic events appear as dark theatre, and those that borrow from literature or drama as reflections of the present political moment.