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William Kentridge

Being Led by the Nose

South African artist William Kentridge’s drawings, films, books, installations, and collaborations with opera and theater companies have established him as a world-class star in contemporary art, media, and theater. In 2010, and again in 2013, he staged Dmitri Shostakovich’s The Nose at the Metropolitan Opera; after the premiere, the New York Times noted that “Kentridge, who directed this production, helped design the sets and created the videos that animate the staging, received the heartiest bravos.” In this book, Jane Taylor, Kentridge’s friend and frequent collaborator, invites us to take an extraordinary behind-the-scenes look at his work for the show.

Kentridge has long been admired for his unconventional use of conventional media to produce art that is stunning, evocative, and narratively powerful—and how he works is as important as what he creates. This book is more than just a simple record of The Nose. The opera serves as a springboard into a bracing conversation about how Kentridge’s methods serve his unique mode of expression as a narrative and political artist. Taylor draws on his etchings, sculptures, and drawings to render visible the communication that occurs between his mind and hand as he thinks through the activity of making. Beautifully illustrated in color, William Kentridge offers striking insights about one of the most innovative artists of our present moment.

165 pages | 71 color plates, 6 halftones | 8 1/2 x 9 1/2 | © 2017

Art: Art Criticism, Art--Biography

Literature and Literary Criticism: Dramatic Works

Music: General Music


“The dialectical relationship between parts of the self drives Taylor’s project in content and form, and the style of writing itself performs the main thrust of the argument. By deliberately employing her writing to mirror Kentridge’s mode of working, Taylor creates not only an insightful critical study of Kentridge’s creative process, but a sophisticated piece of performative writing as well. . . .This book sets a precedent for how theatre scholarship can engage with its object as an artistic collaboration, where text performs how art is made.”

Theatre Journal

"A great addition to the recent literature that has come out on Kentridge."

CAA Reviews

“This is an extraordinarily intrepid and lucid book. The fit between Taylor and Kentridge is so invigorating it may as well be unprecedented. Rarely has a major living artist found so engaged and lively a commentator.”

Garrett Stewart, author of Closed Circuits: Screening Narrative Surveillance

“Brave, inventive, and intellectually exciting, William Kentridge not only reveals the playfulness and rigor of Kentridge’s aesthetic processes but manages the rare feat of capturing a certain spirit—one that is normally graspable only when one views a work of art itself or watches a live performance.”

Jessica Dubow, University of Sheffield

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. Nasal Passages
2. Nose Bleeds
3. A Special Theory of Relativity
4. Object Lessons
5. Collegiate Assessments

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