On Play

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    William Kentridge creating video animation for I am not me, the horse is not mine (2008) in his studio, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2008. Production stills from the film William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible. © Art21, Inc. 2010.

    "A lot of the work is like playing in the sense that there are simple rules. I can walk up and down inside the studio and film that and see what emerges. It starts off from what the actual activity in the studio is—a lot of pacing up and down—and it's playing with that." —William Kentridge

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    William Kentridge creating video animation for I am not me, the horse is not mine (2008) in his studio, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2008. Production still from the film William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible. © Art21, Inc. 2010.

    "Often something's done because it's going to solve a technical problem. But if it's done well, somewhere along the way it may well be something that is of substantive meaning rather than technically useful at that moment." —William Kentridge

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    William Kentridge rehearsing before the premiere of I am not me, the horse is not mine (2008) at the 16th Biennale of Sydney, Australia, 2008. Production still from the film William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible. © Art21, Inc. 2010.

    "When I was about 15 people had to say, 'What did you think you were going to study?' Or, 'What did you think you were going to be when you were an adult? Lawyer? Engineer? Deep sea diver? Marine biologist?' I think I actually made the foolishness of writing down once in some survey I'd crossed that I wanted to be a conductor." —William Kentridge

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    William Kentridge rehearsing before the premiere of I am not me, the horse is not mine (2008) at the 16th Biennale of Sydney, Australia, 2008. Production still from the film William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible. © Art21, Inc. 2010.

    "For many years I thought, 'Oh, I should have been a lawyer.' But on the one hand, there was a sense of that's been done. My father's done it. My mother's done it. Not gonna be done better by me, that's for sure. On the other hand, there's a kind of a rational clarity to law which didn't seem to me adequate to the comprehension of the world." —William Kentridge

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    William Kentridge performing I am not me, the horse is not mine (2008) as part of Performa 09, New York, 2009. Production stills from the film William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible. © Art21, Inc. 2010.

    "The artist understands that both the optimistic and the pessimistic future unroll together. Making art was a way of arriving at knowledge that was not subject to cross-examination. It was an important way of trying to arrive at an opinion, but not through the rationalist form of legal argument." —William Kentridge

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    William Kentridge performing I am not me, the horse is not mine (2008) as part of Performa 09, New York, 2009. Production stills from the film William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible. © Art21, Inc. 2010.

    "The possibility of exploring something not known, quite literally, will lead to understanding that one can do things lightly and quickly without understanding deep motivations. It's not exactly frowned upon, but it's not the norm. For me it has always been very important." —William Kentridge

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    William Kentridge performing I am not me, the horse is not mine (2008) as part of Performa 09, New York, 2009. Production stills from the film William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible. © Art21, Inc. 2010.

    "And that's why in the work that I do, there's a lot of strategy for—not the unconscious—but the non-planned to have a place and to lead to ideas. And that's where the art comes from. That's why art rather than analysis." —William Kentridge

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    William Kentridge performing I am not me, the horse is not mine (2008) as part of Performa 09, New York, 2009. Production stills from the film William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible. © Art21, Inc. 2010.

    "All the interesting work I've done has always been against ideas I've had. It's always in-between the things I thought I was doing that the real work has happened. So play is not so much copying that, but trying to find the strategy to allow that to happen. It's about not knowing what something means in advance so that there's a possibility, if something emerges, to hang onto it and allow that to develop—allowing inauthentic origins of images and sequences." —William Kentridge

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    Production stills from the film William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible. © Art21, Inc. and The Metropolitan Opera, 2010.

    "Play is important in the work I do. It's taking something that's real and saying, 'If one extends it to absurdity, if one turns it on its head, if one does it in a different way, what are the things that are revealed about that initial very straightforward activity?' You could describe it as experimenting or improvisation." —William Kentridge

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    Production stills from the film William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible. © Art21, Inc. and The Metropolitan Opera, 2010.

    "Our common understanding of play is allowing yourself to have a childish experience and to play a game. But metaphorically, if you think of the word 'play,' it can also refer to things like the play of light on water. It's not a voluntary action. It has also to do with principles and rules which may not be clear, in which you have to give yourself over to the rules, to the dictates of the activity." —William Kentridge

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    Production stills from the film William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible. © Art21, Inc. and The Metropolitan Opera, 2010.

    "When my children were small, for every birthday I would do a puppet show, improvising puppets out of objects that were in the house. And this continued until they begged me to stop. They much rather wanted to watch DVDs or listen to music. But a lot of the impulse and the kind of ways that puppets were improvised became the basis of a lot of substantive work afterwards." —William Kentridge

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    Production stills from the film William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible. © Art21, Inc. and The Metropolitan Opera, 2010.