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
Kentridge came to LIVE in March of 2010 on the occasion of his Metropolitan Opera directing debut for Shostakovich’s The Nose. Watch this Conversation Portrait from the evening by our Artist-in-Residence, Flash Rosenberg, aptly titled, “Learning from the Absurd”.