CollaborationPublished on December 7th, 2010 by Jessica Hamlin
How does the role of the artist change when he or she collaborates? When working on his performative projects, including staging Shostakovich’s 1928 opera The Nose at the Metropolitan Opera in 2010, and his live performance of I am not me, the horse is not mine (2008), William Kentridge relies on the expertise and skills of a host of collaborators, including performers, set designers, and musicians. Kentridge also works with a collective of weavers who interpret his designs and imagery into tapestries. All of these collaborations allow Kentridge to do what he could not do alone.
One of the things that’s clear about William is the way he includes people in his practice and empowers people.
— Kentridge Studio Manager, Anne McIlleron
- How do we collaborate to make things in our daily lives?
- What is the role of the artist when he or she collaborates? Are there multiple roles one can play?
The Visual and the Musical
Composer Phillip Miller talks about his long-time collaboration with William Kentridge, scoring and performing original music for the artist’s animated films such as Felix in Exile (1994) and the multi-channel video installation I am not me, the horse is not mine (2008).
- Why might a visual artist be interested in working with a composer?
- How is music a “natural adjunct” to Kentridge’s visual work?
- What role does music play in Kentridge’s work? Watch the excerpt of his work with sound and then without sound. How does your experience of the work differ with each viewing?
Select a music video and re-create the different components (music, singing or voiceover narration, dancing and acting, visual setting and design, costumes) using everyday materials and found resources or talent.
The Role of the Artist
In the film, set designer Sabine Theunissen and John Pitts, a scenic artist from the Metropolitan Opera, discuss the collaborative process of designing and fabricating the curtain for Kentridge’s production of The Nose (2010). The following set of images shows another set of collaborators working with Kentridge on his production of The Nose, as well as weavers in a tapestry workshop who are interpreting Kentridge’s imagery into textiles.
- What are some of the steps artists must take to collaborate in order to make works that they themselves cannot create alone?
- What forms of collaboration must take place to stage an opera? Who is involved and what are their roles?
- What is Kentridge’s role as an artist when he collaborates with the scenic artists?
- Why might a visual artist be interested in working with opera or theater?
- How does Kentridge’s work change when presented in another media or material? How does it change when it is interpreted by another person like a tapestry weaver or set designer, or translated by a stage actor?
Compile a collection of materials, found objects, and tools for making art and divide them into two piles. In one instance, create a plan for making a work of art with the materials you have collected and give your instructions to someone else to complete. In a second work, instruct someone to instinctively play with the materials to create a work of art. How are the two pieces different? Interview your collaborators and ask how the experience of producing them varies.
Think back to a previous artwork you created and write out each step you took to make it. Illustrate these steps in the form of visual instructions without using text and ask several people to carry them out. Document and share the results.
This theme relates to pages 7 and 11 in the Educators’ Guide and Screening Companion.