WILLIAM KENTRIDGE: I’ll tell you a story. A German scientist, Felix Eberty, had come to understand that the speed of light had a fixed speed and wasn’t instantaneous, and he worked out that everything that had been seen on earth was moving out from earth at the speed of light, so instead of having space as a vacuum, he described it as suffused with images of everything that had happened on earth. You would just have to be at the right distance from earth to be at the right moment to see what had happened in the archive—to see anything that had happened—so if you had to start 2000 light years away, in his terms you could see the crucifixion. If you were 500 light years away, you could see Dürer making his Melancholia print, which is 500 years old now.
I was intrigued with the idea of space full of this archive of images that was spreading out. I thought of that in terms of a ceiling projection with all these images…[But] it was jettisoned because it was very complicated in terms of the physical projection. How would you see it? Would everybody have mirrors to look at the ceiling to look from down below (which I had done before)? At one stage we had a whole Room of Failures, which was all the things that didn’t work, which we still could have done. —from “Death, Time, Soup: A Conversation with William Kentridge and Peter Galison” by Margaret K. Koerner
On 12 July 12, 1936, Spain’s most translated poet and playwright, Federico García Lorca, left the manuscript of one of his key works, Poet In New York, on the desk of his editor José Bergamín in Madrid with a handwritten note on top: “Back Tomorrow”.
But tomorrow never came. Instead of returning Lorca – part of the ‘Generation of ’27’, an avant-garde artists collective that included his friends Salvador Dali and film-maker Luis Bunuel – went home to Granada, where he was murdered five weeks later by General Franco’s death-squads as Spain tore itself apart in its three-year Civil War.
As for the Poet in New York manuscript, it was taken first to Paris then to central America by Bergamín as he and other Republicans went on the run from Franco. But shortly after an initial dual print run in 1940, the manuscript disappeared, with disputes lasting for decades over the accuracy of ensuing published versions.
Now, for the first time, those doubts should evaporate when the 96-page manuscript – located in 2003 when it was sold at Christies to the Federico García Lorca Foundation for £120,000 by an unemployed Mexican actress – finally goes on public view.