On January 22, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art opened William Kentridge: The Heart has Its Own Memory. The second exhibition in the recently opened Imprint Gallery, this show presents two films by the celebrated South African artist William Kentridge. On loan from the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Felix in Exile (1994) and History of the Main Complaint (1996) are the fifth and sixth works in the artist’s animated film series 9 Drawings for Projection (1989-1994), which collectively explore the history of South Africa’s shift from apartheid to post-apartheid society.
Set in the ravaged landscape south of Johannesburg, the films depict the ongoing racial inequalities of contemporary life, while also reflecting on the human condition—the psychological traumas that remain as vestiges of South Africa’s devastating sociopolitical past. Kentridge created both works by photographing his charcoal and pastel drawings with 35 mm film. Each scene is comprised of a drawing he continuously altered by erasing and layering with new imagery. Traces of the drawing’s successive stages remain, functioning as a physical reminder of Kentridge’s theme of individual and collective memory.