QUESTIONS: William Kentridge

The following questions can be used to spark conversation before, during, and after viewing the artist's film segment. They were compiled from our Educators' Guides and Screening Toolkits. We strongly encourage active viewing strategies that involve audiences in discussion in order to anticipate and set-up the ideas in the film, clarify content, or further the ideas while watching, and gives viewers the opportunity to process and re-consider their ideas after watching. Additional resources and strategies for teaching with films and working with contemporary art can be found in Teach.


Production still from the "Art in the Twenty-First Century" Season 5 episode, "Compassion," 2009. Segment: William Kentridge. © Art21, Inc. 2009.

Before Viewing
What are the benefits and drawbacks of having a plan when creating a work of art? Compare them to the benefits and drawbacks of spontaneity.

Discuss an artist who works simultaneously in more than one discipline, such as visual art and theater. What kinds of work does this artist produce? How is it similar to or different from the work of artists who focus on a single discipline?


SEGMENT: William Kentridge in "Compassion"

While Viewing
Identify the artworks in which Kentridge mixes media. In what ways do these projects reflect Kentridge's preference for play or for working without a plan?

Describe the skills that Kentridge employs in his work. What roles does he play when creating his multimedia projects?


Drawing for "What Will Come (has already come) (Two Heads)," 2007. Charcoal on paper, cold rolled steel table and mirrored steel cylinder, Paper diameter: 47 1/4 inches, Cylinder higher: 11 1/2 inches, diameter: 6 1/2 inches, Overall: 41 1/4 x 48 x 48 inches. Installation at Marian Goodman Gallery, New York. © William Kentridge. Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.

After Viewing
Kentridge discusses the relationship of his characters, Soho and Felix, to himself, and he describes much of his work as "a self-portrait in the third person." What do you think he means by this? How does his work relate to autobiography? How does it relate to fantasy or fiction?

Kentridge is interested in the process of seeing and the ways that we construct the world by looking. How does his work communicate that interest?

William Kentridge suggests that looking and seeing can be "a broad-based metaphor for how we understand the world." How do feelings of compassion, sympathy, and empathy influence the process of looking and seeing, and how does this affect how one understands the world?