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The Mass Media

‘The Refusal of Time’ at the ICA


William Kentridge, The Refusal of Time, 2012. A Collaboration with Philip Miller, Catherine Meyburgh and Peter Galison. Five-channel video with sound, 30 min, with megaphones and breathing machine (‘elephant’).

Tucked beside the waterfront sits the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), a simple but elegantly designed vessel for the works of creative minds such as William Kentridge.

Kentridge’s artistic pieces range from charcoal illustrations to drypoint, complete with moving sculptures and five projector screens, build up to the cinematic central artwork of his collection, ”The Refusal of Time.”

The arrangement for the exhibit forms a sort of introduction to the mind behind the work as viewers first explore a room of Kentridge’s illustrations. His various works cover the room wall to wall, prompting a full tour before entering the main show.

Two tables sit in the middle of the one-room exhibit, featuring books explaining the making of ”The Refusual of Time” and his other works, which serve as an excellent way of resolving any confusion over the complex piece.

Through his assortment of works, the artist emphasizes the significance of shadows and perspective, as well as the history of colonialism in South Africa.

A particularly powerful illustration in charcoal features a vivid and lush visual of exotic landscape with streaks of red pastel lines in the formation of gun sights. As part of Kentridge’s Colonial Landscapes series, the piece is meant to subtly capture the underlying violence of colonial exploration.

Another potent illustration is the grotesque image, “Casspirs Full of Love,” in which decapitated heads are piled onto a shelf. The ironic piece attempts to represent the horrors of South African violence. Kentridge bases the title and illustration off of the army tanks, the Casspir, utilized to restrain uprisings in South African townships during the 1980s. Over the radio, parents would send messages to their children in the army; Kentridge quotes one mother, who tells her son: “This message comes from your mother with Casspirs full of love.”

The display climaxes with a video instillation — living, breathing art with a startling wooden machine at its heart. A cacophony of trumpets, drums, and singing resound throughout the entire fourth floor of the museum, inviting viewers to take a seat in the assortment of chairs scattered about the viewing room. All at once, Kentridge’s dramatized world of ticking metronomes, dancing, and mechanization engulfs us.

Throughout the 30-minute feature, the gigantic wooden sculpture placed in the center of the room endlessly churns. The piece reminds us of the ticking clock and our endless efforts to escape time’s reality.

Furthermore, Kentridge makes a point of emphasizing the imposition of European ideals during the colonial era, such as time zones and forced “progress.”

The multi-tool use of visuals and audios offers a unique and compelling piece for art nuts and casual museum-goers alike.

The exhibit runs until May 4. Students pay $10 on most days, and if you are looking for a cheap night out in the city, all visits are free on Thursdays after 5 p.m. for ICA Free Thursday Nights.
Visit www.icaboston.org for more information.