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PAIA, 2000 (Act 2 of 2000) 

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World stands on its hind legs Print E-mail
14 July 2010

A side view of the sculpture, with the skyline in the background

A fascinating sculpture by William Kentridge and Gerhard Marx stands on the hilltop at the Apartheid Museum. Again the artists play with images.

THE Apartheid Museum seems a good setting for the world. A sculpture, World on its Hind Legs, resides there for the moment on the hilltop in the grasslands of the museum, with a great view of the Joburg city skyline.

Gerhard Marx and William Kentridge pose in front of their sculpture
Gerhard Marx and William Kentridge pose in front of their sculpture

The latest collaborative sculpture by William Kentridge and Gerhard Marx, it was unveiled last week. The sculpture is of a large round world in broken steel paper-shaped fragments, held up by several diagonal legs.

Similar to the Fire Walker in the CBD, an earlier collaboration between Marx and Kentridge, this sculpture also offers interesting views from every side, but only one correct view of this world. The Fire Walker is made up of a series of metal pieces that provide the full image only in one position.

World on its Hind Legs was originally commissioned by Nedbank for its new head office in Sandton. The work has been installed and this version will eventually go to a buyer outside of South Africa. The original drawings for the piece come from Kentridge's drawings for an Italian newspaper on the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935.

"Kentridge and Marx selected this particular image for the sculpture because of its strong lines that would give weight and impetus to the figure," according to a press statement from the Goodman Gallery, which has brought the sculpture to the museum.

Another element in the exhibition, entitled Walker/Marx/Kentridge, is two films by American artist Kara Walker, entitled 8 Possible Beginnings or: The Creation of Africa-America, a Moving Picture and ... calling to me from the angry surface of some grey and threatening sea.

Walker is an award-winning artist who has exhibited in museums and galleries in the US, Europe and Asia. Her works are in the collections of the Arts Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Guggenheim Museum, all in New York.

Apartheid Museum
At the opening, Kentridge agreed that the venue was a good one, with the skyline of the city in the background. He explained that he was interested in the idea of playing with the three- and two- dimensional images.

At the correct angle the sculpture comes into focus
At the correct angle the sculpture comes into focus

"We have taken the three-dimensional image and turned it into a two-dimensional image. At one point it makes the correct image, and that denies its three-dimensionality," he explained, also speaking of the "fragility of coherence", the "contradictory elements" and the "pleasure of the illusion" of the sculpture. "In fact it is made up of enormous contradictory elements."

One of the early images was the cartoons of Bob Connolly, a political cartoonist of the 1960s, said the artist. "I am partly indebted to him."

But there are other contributors: Archimedes and his images of the world providing its own levers; another is of Atlas carrying the world.

Marx spoke of the joy of the creation. "It's about taking something simple and snowballing it into complexity. The truth of the work lies outside of the work."

The difficulty of a work like this was to scale it up, he said, which meant that a paper and glue image had to be doubled up in a completely different medium - steel. "In the scaling up, the logic of construction gets lost. You're suddenly sitting with a lack of logic, with angles never flush - it's a complicated terrain."

The Goodman Gallery says all three artists "share a profound commitment to addressing history and context in their work".

The exhibition will run for several months. The Apartheid Museum is open from Tuesdays to Sundays, from 10am to 5pm. It is on the corner of Northern Parkway and Gold Reef Road, Ormonde, in southwestern Johannesburg.

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Last Updated on 30 July 2010