William Kentridge | Drawing Lesson One: In Praise of Shadows

Good afternoon, friends I’m Homi Bhabha, Chair of the Norton Committee and Director of the Mahindra Humanities Center, and it is my great privilege to welcome you to the first of six lectures by William Kentridge, the 212th Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry I welcome you on behalf of our committee, Thomas Cummins, Maria [? Gough, ?] Michael Hays, Carrie Lambert-Beatty, Richard Moran, Diana Sorensen, and Mariet Westermann, and take this opportunity to thank them for leading us to this remarkable outcome The Norton lectures recognize individuals of extraordinary accomplishments who, in addition to their particular expertise, have the gift of wide dissemination and wise expression A quick note about a departure from our usual format– Mr. Kentridge has requested that instead of having a question and answer period after each lecture, we hold a separate question and answer session just before his last lecture So please write down your questions, ruminate over them, revise them, radically shorten them, and bring them to Emerson Hall 105 on Monday April the 23rd at 7:00 PM I look forward to seeing you all there It is one of the maddeningly beautiful things about William Kentridge’s art that he never leaves well enough alone Anything Is Possible is the title of the Art 21 documentary devoted to his work And as you will see in the next few minutes and discover more fully over the next six weeks, nothing is impossible in the company of William Kentridge Plato, Mozart, [? Saartjie ?] [? Baartman, ?] [? Gogle, ?] Picasso, Shostakovich, and [? Muafangejo ?] will rub noses in the most unexpected ways Vienna 1791, Berlin 1884, Nyasaland 1915, the Congo 1936, Johannesburg 2011, Cambridge 2012 will map a global geopolitical itinerary as territoriality bleeds into a formal aesthetic inventory In the weeks that follow, drawing, opera, puppetry, cartoon making, animation, and photography will all pass before you, leered one upon another, cutting against each other, revealing a double-edged playoff between perception and projection To show the excess of impulse, the excess of making is the artist’s avowed purpose And in a recent publication, I discovered a short note by Kentridge, which must, I believe, refer to the composition of the Norton lectures, although he doesn’t say so It goes like this “A book without end Strategy Six lectures each found on a page, lost, re-found At times, two different lectures on the same page, a cacophony of information, always re-beginning.” Excess in erasure and the act of drawing in its shadows, the tentative translucence of images in the layered form of the palimpsest, the hand-drawn animation that, as Rosalind Krauss writes, “imposes stasis in the midst of movement,” these are some of the process-driven practices for which Kentridge’s work is renowned But process for Kentridge is more than a matter of technique It is also about a way of understanding the world through the artifice of passionate affect,

to recreate the strength of a passion when it was first found, he writes, and to hang onto its initial shock and track it back into yourself And the location of this passionate recreation is easy to miss because it is the studio, for Kentridge, in which the artist learns and imparts his drawing lessons Right through these lectures, the studio will be the leitmotif and the shaping spirit of the process of making excess “I am only an artist My job is to make art, not sense,” as Kentridge once put it The studio, as featured in this talk, has its own agency It belongs as much to the realm of medium and material as do charcoal, pencil, film, music, or the camera The studio provides a temporality, a time for a space of uncertainty from which the artist begins And like the linear narrative of the genre of the lecture, the studio allows for a way of looking that is a frontal assault of all the images together, seen together at one glance, seen alongside each other The studio is both event and epistemology And in this sense, Kentridge’s studio, with its darkly comic iconography, reminds me a great deal of the late studio of Philip Guston For both of them, the studio is the site of cacophony, of meaning making, a cacophony of excess and uncertainty and indecision, as Kentridge puts it, through which we invite the viewer to find the possible sense The possible sense of these lectures is yet to unfold before us Had I to predict a direction, I would say that they will be about the speed of sight You heard it right– the speed of sight, not light Kentridge’s art emerges, as he repeatedly says, from gaps, inversions, in-between spaces, and interrupted times Somewhere between what we see on the wall and what we conjure up behind our retinas, as he puts it, somewhere then between recognition and representation lies a way of knowing and looking It can be lost or gained in the blink of an eye Look carefully again and again Nothing remains quite the same Anything is possible Ladies and gentlemen, join me in welcoming the master of the double vision, William Kentridge Thank you Thanks About 10 months ago, I telephoned my father to say that I had been invited to deliver the series of lectures “Well,” he replied, “do you have anything to say?” “Well, you must understand,” I said to him, “It is a great honor to be asked to give the Norton lectures.” He said, “Yes, I understand And now you have that honor You don’t have to accept.” But it seems the decision has been made, and here we are, and the six lectures that follow will be an attempt to answer that first question On the day I first started thinking about these lectures, I made a note, a caution to myself, which I repeat today Now, notes like this are an essential part of the preparation process I listed every thought I had ever had or remembered someone else as having, and then I divided them by six In many different ways, as if in their different arrangements, some new thoughts would emerge

I wrote them on pieces of paper, these ideas, and pinned them to the walls of the studio– a necessary stupidity, finding the drawing twice, the overdetermined image, against argument, against certainty, geological autochthony I added them to drawings I was making– a universal archive, knowledge as shame, lessons from typewriters, dialectics for nine-year-olds, the overdetermined image, in praise of bastardy, a prehistory of cinema, a prehistory of relativity I painted them in alizarin crimson in watercolor on the pages of a 1735 Franciscan liturgical tract which I had found in Rome– making a safe space for stupidity, drawing with one eye shut, circling the studio, performances of transformation, Picasso on safari, [? viva, ?] [? lino ?] [? cut, ?] [? viva, ?] what I learned at supper, the face of the other, an ethical demand, and [? Torschlusspanik. ?] Now, beating into my head the need to find a connection between the activity I practiced, which is drawing, and the words of the lecture At the beginning, let it be said that these lectures are going to move backwards and forwards, to and from the studio I hope that they are not only a description of the work I’ve done over the last 30 years, but to start away from the studio would be foolish And this is about a necessary movement from images to ideas We will start each lecture with a short extract or piece of work of mine, both to show the images I am thinking about while writing the lectures, or to which the lectures refer, but more importantly to state and to show the primacy of the image, the thinking behind the primacy of the image behind the thinking of each lecture Now, this primacy is often literal in that the work is made 10 or 15 years ago and the thinking about it has been done in the last six months So we will start today with an extract from a film I made 13 years ago, and the section I will show is approximately five minutes long [MUSIC PLAYING] [VOCALIZING] Now– thank you

Now, let us begin in 360 BC And here is Plato writing in the voice of Socrates in his book The Republic “Imagine an underground chamber like a cave, with a long entrance open to the daylight and as wide as the cave In this chamber are men who have been prisoners since they were children, their legs and neck so fastened that they can only look straight ahead of them and cannot turn their heads Some way off and higher up, a fire is burning, and between the fire and the prisoners and above them runs a road, in front of which a curtain wall has been built, like the screen at puppet shows between the operators and the audience, above which they show their puppets.” “I see,” says Glaucon, Socrates’ interlocutor “Imagine further that there are men carrying all sorts of gear along behind the curtain wall, projecting above it and including figures of men and animals made of wood and stone and all sorts of other materials and that some of these men, as you would expect, are talking and some are not.” “An odd picture and an odd sort of prisoner,” says Glaucon Now, this text, which is worth reading in its extended form, is not just the center point of this lecture, but also the starting point for a line we will follow throughout the whole series of lectures The questions it provokes, its metaphors, are the pivotal axes of questions, both political and aesthetic However, at this point, did I simply note the presence of prisoners in the story “They’re drawn from life,” Plato continues “For, tell me, do you think our prisoners could see anything of themselves or their fellows except the shadows thrown by the fire on the wall of the cave opposite them? How could they see anything else if they were prevented from moving their heads all their lives? And would they see anything more of the projected objects carried along the road?” “Of course not.” “Then, if they were able to talk to each other, would they not assume that the shadows they saw were the real things?” “Inevitably.” “And if the wall of the prison opposite them reflected sound, don’t you think they would suppose, whenever one of the passersby on the road spoke, that the voice belonged to the shadow passing before them?” “They would be bound to think so.” Now, the film from which I showed you an extract, Shadow Procession, was made in 1999 for the Istanbul Bienali, and it was designed to be shown in the underground Yerebatan Cistern of that city It uses a technique of jointed paper puppets moved frame by frame under the camera The torn pieces of paper are joined with little twists of wire

Its origins are in puppet theater using flat cutout figures either as silhouettes in front of the screen or as shadows cast onto the screen Plato continues “And so in every way they would believe that the shadows of the object we mentioned were the whole truth.” “Yes, inevitably,” agrees Glaucon “Then think what would naturally happen to them if they were released from their bonds and cured of their delusions Suppose one of them were let loose and suddenly compelled to stand up and turn his head and look and walk towards the fire All these actions would be painful, and he would be too dazzled to see properly the objects of which he used to see the shadows What do you think he would say if he was told that he was now nearer reality and seeing more correctly because he was turned towards the objects that were more real and if, on top of that, he were compelled to say what each of the passing objects was when pointed out to him? Don’t you think he would be at a loss and think that what he used to see was far truer than the objects now being pointed out to him?” “Yes, far truer.” “And if he were made to look directly at the light of the fire, it would hurt his eyes and he would turn back and retreat to the things which he could see properly, which he would think really clearer than the things being shown him.” Now, the paper characters in Shadow Procession, the film, formed, on one hand, an inventory of people on the move– a man walking while reading, miners carrying a broken city, pensioners carried in wheelbarrows, an inventory of specific people seen in newspapers, in the news, and on the streets of Johannesburg But the film was about amplitude rather than the specific nature of a particular journey, a catalog of people on the move I was interested in how roughly a figure could be torn and still be understood, how crudely it could be moved and still have coherence as a moving specific person Plato continues “And if,” he continues, “he were forcibly dragged up the steep and rugged ascent and not let go till he had been dragged out into the sunlight, the process would be a painful one to which he would much object, and when he emerged into the light, his eyes would be so dazzled by the glare that he wouldn’t be able to see a single one of the things he was now told were real.” “Certainly not at first,” Glaucon agrees Now, the question of shadows was posed in practical terms– how to achieve an image, not a thought, how to achieve shadows and movement I think my interest in procession started with seeing the Goya image the Procession of the Holy Office and the Pilgrimage to San Isidro, the crowd moving from the depths of the picture plane towards the surface towards us With shadows, the forward movement of an image becomes problematic You have a light source and you have an object blocking the light As the crowd moves forward towards the light, its shadow gets larger and larger till it obliterates the entire screen Its forward flecked movement– it has very limited forward flexibility, whereas with a lateral movement, while it does reduce the mass to an itemized list, it does enable a continuation, a sense of an ongoing procession to be clear Plato’s crowd of necessity has to be a lateral procession, observed neither advancing nor retreating, simply passing “Because, of course,” Plato continues, “he would need to grow accustomed to the light before he could see things in the upper world outside the cave First he would find it easiest to look at the shadows, next at the reflections of men and other objects in water, and later on at the objects themselves After that he would find it easier to observe the heavenly bodies and the sky itself at night and to look at the light of the moon and stars rather than at the sun and its light by day.” “Of course.” “The thing he would be able to do last would be to look directly at the sun itself and gaze at it without using reflections in water or any other medium, but as and in itself.”

“That must come last,” says Glaucon “Later on, he would come to the conclusion that it is the sun that produces the changing seasons and years and controls everything in the visible world and is in a sense responsible for everything that he and his fellow prisoners used to see.” “That is the conclusion he would inevitably reach.” We will come to the question of destinations later in the lectures Here, suffice it to say that while making the film Shadow Procession I could not find a destination that felt possible The procession could not end with a fete galante on the island of Cythera like Watteau It could not arrive at a civic state as in [? David, ?] nor could it arrive at a collective farm We have now reached a point where all destinations, all bright lights, arouse our mistrust The light at the end of the tunnel we are all too familiar turns so quickly into an interrogator spotlight “And when he thought of his first home,” continues Plato in the voice of Socrates, “and what passed for wisdom there, and of his fellow prisoners, don’t you think he would congratulate himself on his good fortune and be sorry for them?” “Very much so.” From this, Plato tells us, comes the ethical imperative of the philosopher The man who has seen the light and apprehended and understood the forms that follow from it has a duty to return to the cave, to unshackle those in darkness, and bring them up from the cave into light, and, if necessary, this must be done with force The nexus of enlightenment, emancipation, and violence emerges We have set our agenda Now, as the medium of these lectures is not charcoal but talking, perhaps we should pause here for a minute with some remarks on the discipline itself There are the words themselves and their syntax and grammar and their relationship to the outside world, but there is also the discipline of the medium, that which is in between the words, the devices which one uses either to pin the words more closely to the outside world or to encourage the listener to make that connection, to convince them of what I say In Plato, we see this very clearly in the form of the rhetorical questions and the prompted answers Is it not true that the questions Plato asks have a predicted prompted answer? That is quite true Are not the questions there to provide a form for moving the argument forward rather than a real inquiry? I agree And is the argument any weaker for this chosen form of writing? Inevitably not Therefore, must we not say that this mock interrogation is something over and above the words in the sentences that connect the word there to convince the reader or the listener? I am bound to think so And are not the answers to the questions simply a mode of emphasis, of convincing us? Yes, inevitably again True Very much so Necessarily Yes, that is certainly so Absolutely true Something of the sort is inevitable But there are other things that also happen in the gaps and spaces, most importantly the– the hesitation, the dramatic, mm– the dramatic “um,” the uncertain, um– the uncertain– the uncertain, um, the pause before the certainty of the final statement or– or– or mock uncertainty, the pause before the clarity of the final statement or mock uncertainty hiding real uncertainty And there is a series of accompanying gestures unspoken, which are not there in the text, though in truth some of them are written down here in my notes, but which are an essential part of the performance of conversation or lecturing or talking– I mean, emphasizing this precise point, the raised finger, the circling finger, gathering consensus whilst letting thoughts expand, gathering further examples,

the adjustment of the sleeve, the removal of the watch, a small but important point being made here, the circle of the thumb and forefinger There’s the open-handed tapping of the podium There’s the collar tug, the one hand in the pocket There’s the double-handed tossing of the salad There’s a dovening, a leaning towards the notes There’s a shaking of dice for emphasis, and there’s a demonstration of other possibilities with the windscreen wiper wrist There’s the apparent losing of one’s place in the notes, the real losing of place in the notes, the open-handed, sincere simplicity, the weighing of the words in the open hand, the removal of the glasses for a frank look, the almost replacement of the glasses, the held gesture, a complex combination, touching the nose, touching the hair, the collar tug and the finger twirl to take us through a complex question, a separation of tangential action from thought The more extreme the action, the purer the thought Now, this catalog of extraverbal explanation comes from a lecture I observed given by Professor Jacques Ranciere But what is the belief? The belief is that all these words, their grammar, their argument, the conscious or unconscious performance of gestures of conviction, it is the belief that from these truth will be distilled, the belief that all can be stripped bare and evaluated Everything that is designed to hide a false connection can be discovered and discarded, the belief that from them all rest, surrounding and including the words, we can extract the logical, the justified inference, the truth, and that the rational, the good, the philosopher, and the judge will prevail I must confess, I am intensely skeptical of such godlike judgment and such a godlike judge But all the same, of necessity, I place you, the audience, in this position There are many prehistories to being an artist, how or why one ends up spending one’s life filling sheets of paper with signs and images Some of these we will come across in later lectures, but suffice it to say here there is obviously a need to arrive at a meaning without the medium of language and logic– in fact, in opposition to it A biographical note here– I was a high school debater in the school team We would have formal debates such as this house abhors the dissolution of the British empire The debates were designed to teach logical argument and rhetorical skill and to show their importance and value, but the reverse happened It seemed one could equally make an argument for this house abhorring the dissolution of the British empire as this house celebrating the dissolution of the British empire In fact, one could swap arguments at 10 minutes notice if one of the other members of the team was absent So argument and logic became something on top of the world, hovering over its surface rather than embedded in it Was something true or was it simply convincingly argued? In the end, I trusted neither the arguments nor myself I think this is also one of the reasons why I did not become an academic And it should be said here in this very August citadel of scholarship, I think I became an artist because I needed to find a field in which the construction of fictional authorities and imagined quotes would be a cause for celebration rather than rustication and disgrace The 30 years in the studio are not just an attempt to answer the question, have you anything to say, but rather to disempower the question As I indicated at the start of the lecture, the presence of a father who is a lawyer is not incidental to this narrative It became imperative to make something and a self that was impervious to cross-examination, to assert the primacy and the necessity for stupidity for the necessary stupidity that is essential in the studio This is a caveat to what follows,

which is a series of reflections after the event It’s not an interpretation of works I have made, but reflections which stem from them, which stem more precisely from the activity of making them There are inevitably interpretations of the work in which I feel situated as a rather privileged but not particularly good critic I’m too close to the person who made them and too subject to his bullying will of how I should explain them to give much helpful advice But to return to Plato and the myth of his shadows, of darkness and light, the heart not just of this lecture but, as I said, of the lectures that will follow Let us go back to the cave and the prisoners deceived by the shadows And I think of an eight-year-old on a beach and the long shadows cast by the sun close to the horizon The shadows are a version of you Lift your arm and the shadow lifts its arm Step forward and the shadow advances But the elongation, the anamorphic projection of the long sun, changes things too There is a speed, a skill When you duck and weave, no one can stand on your shadow The shadow of the head, which is now at the back of the beach on the dunes, as I move my head, shift 20 meters down the beach I am both its controller but also delighted and amazed at the speed and dexterity that I did not know I had The shadow is an extension of me, and it is more than an extension of me This self-deception we should look at more closely Many years ago, I attended a performance of a tiny circus called Le Cirque Imaginaire, which consisted of an acrobat, his wife, and one untrained goose Now, one of the acts in the circus was the performance of the transformation of soap into glass The performer, the acrobat down from the slack wire, would blow soap bubbles and then, using a small hammer, would burst each bubble, and they had turned into glass Each glass ball would shatter with the familiar and unmistakable sound of crystal shattering Every bubble turned to glass as it shattered The bubbles were made of glass Then the performer, with the flick of his wrist, lifted his waistcoat and showed beneath it a small bell attached to his belt And at the instant that he burst each bubble, he would tap the bell, turning the soap into glass He blew more bubbles and he burst them Again, they turned from soap into glass Even though the bell, the technique, and the illusion was visible and the pleasure was changed into the pleasure of being so caught and the pressure of that which could appear and seem and yet not be, we the audience became the performers, our act that of believing and disbelieving at the same time Now, there is something emerging here, a separation from Plato, the movement from ourselves as more or less enlightened observers towards an awareness of ourselves as agents, as makers of understanding The pleasure in the moment of us believing and not believing is at the same time a jolt of self-assertion The split, the believer and disbeliever, becomes a crack in Plato’s edifice We take a group of torn black pieces of paper At first, they are a group of black shapes on a white sheet of paper, perhaps with an association to Robert Motherwell, then we move them about and we rearrange them Now, is this about a generosity of viewing or are we unable to stop ourselves from seeing in them a shape, a form, a horse? No, this is more than a willing suspension of disbelief in which we know we are seeing torn pieces of paper but pretend to see a horse It’s much more than that We cannot help ourselves from seeing the horse It takes an effort, a willful blindness, to keep the images as torn sheets of black paper or, to be more accurate, to see them as only torn sheets of paper We see them both We are not fooled

The horse and the paper are both there This is an unwilling suspension of disbelief When we say there is a horse, we mean that there is something on the paper which triggers the recognition of horse in us There is an important distinction between knowing and recognizing If you were to ask someone to make a drawing of a horse rearing on its hind legs, this is not easy, unless you are Delacroix I mean, how far under the ramp do the hooves have to go? What is the connection between the angle of the mandible and the wing of the atlas? What is the relationship of the withers to the crest and the shoulder of the horse? How much curve in the spine can the weight of the belly sustain? What is the articulation of the gaskin to the fetlock? But move the pieces of paper and adjust them and the horse rears up for us, something we don’t know we know, something we can recognize without knowing This pressure for meaning, for taking fragments and completing an image, is present not only in looking at shadows but in everything that we see Seeing the horse here becomes a metaphor for all the images and all the ways we apprehend the world And even as the shapes are reduced and the image simplifies, we have the horse with us Even as it becomes a single glyph, we see a horse in its fragments, and we reconstruct a Rocinante from them Inside, there is a sense of horse or horse-ness waiting to be triggered Rocinante, Bucephalus, the Trojan horse, Stubbs, the photo finish of a horse race are all there Now, this is a dual process The sheet of paper comes towards us, and our own sense of horse goes out towards it We meet the world halfway The sheet of paper with its black shapes on it have become a membrane through which we see the world This is both obvious and surprising The drawing becomes a meeting point but also a threshold where the outside world comes towards us, where the outside world meets– Stubbs, Rocinante, the encyclopedic entries, memories of horse riding, memories of falling off a horse, being dragged foot in stirrup along the ninth fairway of a golf course at the Sani Pass holiday resort when I was nine years old In some silent, invisible vestibule of the brain, the images are caught, apprehended, interrogated, and sent brushed up to the resting place as horse The sheet of paper is simply a visible extension of what our retinas do, an emblematic demonstration of that which we know but cannot see Our projection moving out towards the image is an essential part of what it is to see to be in the world with our eyes open To bring this back to Plato’s cave, the recognition of the shapes on the wall is not a mistake, an aberration of people caught by illusion, but an essential part of how all parts of the world are apprehended and comprehended All drawing works with the precept of the paper as a membrane between us and the world In one extreme case, like a [? template, ?] the membrane becomes almost invisible, and we think we see the worlds directly– the book, the playing card, not its artificial recreation Although in most cases, the pleasure of [? template ?] in fact is that of being tricked and not tricked at the same time, the pleasure of our own self-deception, our awareness of the double game, which has now become a triple game We first have the card and the book, then we have the illusion of the card and the book made with paint, canvas, glaze, and the third, our thinking about ourselves, our awareness of ourselves as looking, as observing Now, the other end of the [? template, ?] the other end of the scale of [? template, ?] is a system of divination which exists in the northern parts of South Africa and I am told along the East Coast of Africa Instead of all the clues to the meaning of an image being given on the cloth, on the canvas, with shapes, lines, tone, all is blank, a Robert Ryman of possibilities A white cloth is suspended on the wall of a dim house or hut, and with the help of a diviner, the client or subject sees into the cloth, seeing images on it of the future,

of enemies All is projection from the eye outwards We traverse that difficult space between I dreamt and the objective there came to me in a dream, us as projectors or receivers of that which is in us, that which we don’t know, or as recipients and transmitters of the world outside Now, this seeing into a blank sheet of paper feels familiar to me One has the blank sheet of paper awaiting its marks It is not that a drawing superimposes itself on the shape, but there is an urge, an impulse to make the mark, possible marks or shapes projected onto the paper, a diagonal starting here, leading to an edge there, a line here or lowered to this point, the shape we will only see when we start to draw, a mixture of making and looking Perhaps this is a good place to talk about the division between making and looking, between the artist as maker and the artist as viewer And this is a very real division Each glance or turn turns the maker into a viewer, disappointed with what the maker has done I mean, he can see that the legs are too squat The belly needs more heft The neck and shoulders– just get the neck and shoulders better I mean, you can see You need more– to get the horn, it’s just wrong You need more application, energy in the making of the drawing Just draw better Just get it right I mean, just lower the shoulders Spread the legs I mean, feel the weight of the head It’s load on the shoulders Pin the tail to the right foot Man, we have the dentist tomorrow morning, 10:00 AM Now, if you would just look in the book, you could see how to do it But he’s not ready He’s not ready I’m not ready for that I don’t want to hear it I don’t want to hear it I’m not ready for it [INAUDIBLE] Could he just leave the room? Look, look, look, many artists have shown you how a rhinoceros is made If you look in the book, we can show you how to make a rhinoceros There are very excellent photographs here You could just look at the photographs Now, I feel here as the artist as viewer, a spokesman I have the artist as maker looking over my shoulder, checking what I say and kicking my shins if I get too far away from the studio or when the reflections and thoughts get too distant and airy And let it be said that I will try to have the talking to have the same openness as the drawing in the studio, the openness of a clean piece of paper awaiting its deformation, as if this talking could be like drawing, taking us from what we know to an image, a sight, an insight we did not know that we had, making a space for uncertainty, making a safe space for uncertainty This is in the notes that I wrote– “the studio as nuclear-free zone.” Here there is a pause It says in the notes, “Here, there is a pause.” There is a separation between me writing in the notebook, the thoughts of the lecture, and the self walking around the studio trying to work out, how do we continue from here? But to return to Plato and looking at the son– of course, Plato is talking metaphorically, but perhaps a literal examination is productive in examining his metaphor What is this light of the sun that we take for granted, the even brightness on a wall?

The sun itself, of course, is too bright to look at directly All of Plato’s philosophers would simply have been blinded Some years ago there was a partial eclipse of the sun in Johannesburg Being well versed and the dangers of looking at the sun directly, I made a hole with a pin in a sheet of paper and looked at the tiny speck of light let through this hole forming a small, bright circle on the sheet of paper below the top sheet And I saw the shadow of the moon move across the circle of light, a minute crescent of darkness eating into the disk of the sun And the daylight receded, as it does in eclipses, and there was a thick dusk on us, and I went inside Now, in the front room of my house is a window obscured by creepers The sun shines through gaps in the foliage with a pattern of sunlight on the floor corresponding to the shape and pattern of the leaves outside the window The front room was filled with a gloom, as I expected, but what I had not expected and what astonished me was to see in the spots of light on the floor, of the sun between the shadows of the leaves, not just a darkening, but in each one a crescent eating into the light, 65 patches of light on the floor, 65 different sized crescents eating into each area of light There were as many moons as places where the sunlight fell Divide the spaces in half and the moons doubled– 1,000 spots of light and 1,000 moons and suns Again, in retrospect, this is obvious Every pinhole of all the thousands of people in the city looking at the same eclipse– each had its own shadow of the moon More than that bill, we need to continue More than that, it meant that every pinhole had its own sun The gaps between the leaves, each one an image not just of the shadow of the moon but a projection of the sun as well– the sun projects its own image What I had taken to be light, a generally diffused brightness, was an enormous and infinite series of specific projections, projections of the sun which turn an even light as the specific images multiply, overlap, and blur to give the impression of the even light of sunlight on the wall There is an important inversion here It is not a case of 1,000 eyes looking at an object We all look at the tree and see it But it is also the tree projecting itself again and again, directed at you, at you, at you, directed all the way around the room, an endless promiscuity of projections The studio filled with projections of each table, each drawing pinned up on the wall, saturated with them Turn this way and the images fly in Every corner of the studio filled with images waiting to enter Now, in the mid 19th century, attempts were made to fix the speed of light using mirrors, prisms, spinning disks It was found that light traveled not infinitely fast, but at an invariant speed of approximately 186,000 miles per second Light and projection take a finite time to get from a site of generation to a site of reception Expanding from this discovery, the German scientist Felix [? Iberte ?] postulated all of space as a universal arc of everything that had happened on Earth The light of every event was moving out from Earth at a speed of 186,000 miles per second If you be at the right point in space, you could see any event that had happened Near a star 2,000 light years away, one could see Pontius Pilate washing his hands, as [? Iberte ?] wrote Near a star 500 light years away, Luther could be seen nailing his 95 Theses on the church door at Wittenberg [? Iberte ?] took all his examples from the scriptures

His father, [? Abraham ?] [? Ephraim, ?] had converted from Judaism to Lutheranism Every action, heroic or shameful, was there to be seen Every secret deed was visible Now, there is something terrifying in this Once launched, an image cannot be called back An event cannot be called back It has the pressure of perfect memory, the same inevitability as the claim that no keystroke is ever lost, that once done something cannot be undone The email cannot be unsent Every foolishness is there, every embarrassment The universal archive also becomes an overstocked miserable collection of surplus images We are caught between wanting to send ourselves out and wanting to hold back, to call back, to annul, and to obliterate so many acts and traces, to undo, to unsay, to unremember, to unhappen The air is thick with images, time made dense with each event that has happened, a soup, of fog of images waiting to be received, as if you could take a sheet of paper and move it through the air and catch all the images as they come into it and paper in front of us catching all the projections that come from us outwards and another catching the images as they come in On the sheet above my head, the trees outside the studio coming in, the city, the traffic, the news, yesterday’s news, strikes, riots, distress in different corners of the world, a porous membrane Let us see where we are We are both receiving all the projections that come towards us, a listening, a receiving station, scanning the Earth for reports of the world, bombarded by particles of information we cannot escape And we are also transmitting stations, projecting , broadcasting ourselves the whole time Here I am Here I am Here I am And between the two, between the receiving station and the transmitting station, are all our private engines of making sense of the world Now, this image of the sheets of paper catching images from us going out or the world coming in is, of course, an overdramatization But what it does indicate or refer to is the need to push the process of making the sense of the world outside, beyond one’s own boundaries, onto the drawing, the film, the essay, to find the mediated space between it is and it seems to me Now, Plato’s allegory of the cave was part of a larger project for constructing a vision of an ideal state, an ideal republic, and a philosopher king who would preside over it The relationship of knowledge to power is central in Plato The apprehension of the forms, the move from shadows to light, is what one remembers of the myth But there is more to be seen in the cave The philosopher who had seen the light, the sun, and apprehended the forms, reached an understanding of the world, has the responsibility of returning to the cave, undoing the shackles and chains of those watching the wall, and bringing them up by force to the light They are to be forcibly dragged up the steep and rugged ascent and not let go till they had been dragged out There are several later associations of the people locked in the darkness of the cave, for remember the people in the cave, not incidentally, but centrally for the metaphor to work at all are chained neck and feet So they can only see forwards to the shadows They have been like this since childhood The shackles are more than medieval stocks in which the prisoner becomes the object of the gaze, of others rather than himself looking, but with the insistence on the restriction of the head movements, we are reminded in the yoke and fetters of slaves, a double image, the yoke and fetters of slaves as they are marched across Africa to slave markets, but, more especially, fettered inside the darkness of the hulls of the ships, in the caves of the ships in the Middle Passage across the Atlantic The rows of figures lined up in the diagrams of slave ships are like the people chained up and lined in the cave, each only able to see the wall directly in front of him A later association is the head brace used in 19th century photographs–

again, to make the subject looked at rather than be looking And in the last century, not just in a head clamp, but the very eyes forced open to contemplate that which it would not see The eye of Alex in Clockwork Orange will stand for many such versions of violence, of forced looking that reaches its emblematic high point in the showing of the complete vulnerability of the forced look in the razor blade that blinds the eye in [? Le ?] [? Chien ?] [? Andalou, ?] none of which Plato can be held responsible for, but all of which sits inside his starting image of the people in the cave, all of these images waiting to emerge in the 2 and 1/2 millennia following Plato’s writing For Plato’s philosopher who journeys out of the cave, there is a moral and political right given through a correct understanding of the relationship of that which is seen to that which is On the basis of this understanding, the philosopher gains the right and obligation to be king In other words, the knowledge bestows the right to power, and the right to power is always the right to violence Later, this presumption of knowledge and claim to power would shift to the church and the king The agency of seeing and understanding gets contested further, but each time with the same deadly combination, a certainty of knowledge bestowing a legitimacy of violence We will come across this again in later lectures The enlightened initiates of the Masonic orders, neither of aristocratic birth nor the church, was a further stage They claimed knowledge based on rationality Philosopher king became the Robespierre of the revolution In the period of enlightenment, the philosopher king becomes the citizen For Karl Marx, it becomes the proletariat who, by their relationship to the means of production, have a unique and necessary access to truth and become both philosophers, holders of truth, and the standard bearers of revolutionary violence For Lenin, the truth and privilege of the proletariat is transferred to the party And through this, there is a legitimating of all excesses of violence To descend to the bathetic in the 1980s and ’90s, this philosophical privilege to our shame settled on bankers and hedge fund managers And the contestations that continue still, whether it’s an Occupy Wall Street or other movements, are still contestations of Plato’s myth We could construct a historical chain of being that would start with Plato’s philosopher and then go down to the king and the church and then to the enlightened initiate of the Masonic orders, then to the citizens of revolutionary France, to the proletariat, to the Bolshevik party Plato himself has a specific hierarchy In the chapter on the line, which is the chapter that precedes the chapter of the cave in The Republic, he lists a hierarchy of intelligence that goes from knowledge down to reason, to belief, ending at the lowest level in illusion and delusion Now, as an artist working in the field of illusion, I, of course, have a motive for trying to move illusion higher up this rank of the chain of being, more specifically of showing the place that illusion has in the making of knowledge itself But to note, what sticks in the throat and what must be resisted is the passivity, the image of people waiting to be rescued as though nothing can be understood without the philosopher with his big stick To do this, we pause in the cave The associations with Plato’s allegory continue There is an extraordinary contemporaneity to his metaphor The shadows on the wall are a procession, not just people moving across space, but a procession of people carrying objects They have no [? original ?] destination They pass across behind the viewers This, again, is a contemporary phenomenon– the flickering projections we see in the news of people fleeing floods, civil war, refugees, migrations, refugees returning, displacements, still 2 and 1/2 thousand years later so largely on foot, individual human power still the central means of locomotion, hand carts, wheelbarrows, shopping trolleys the only assistance

The head and the load are still the troubles of the neck But the essential associations go further There is the relationship of knowledge, between knowledge and violence, which we’ll examine further in the next lecture There’s the prehistory of the cinema, the darkened hall, the flickering image, which we will come back to in the fourth lecture But to return to the shadows themselves and what we or those newly released from their chains could understand of and from them, it is in the very limitations and leanness of shadows that we learn, in the gaps, in the leaps we have to make to complete an image And in this, we both perform the generative act of constructing the image, recognizing a horse, a box, a bed roll, a crutch, a typewriter– the very leanness of the illusion pushes us to complete the recognition, and this prompts us into an awareness of this very activity itself, recognizing in this activity our agency in seeing, our agency in apprehending the world Here I pause My note is, let us finish the lecture back in the studio I’ve worked with both shadows and silhouettes intermittently for 20 years In the studio, what can we learn about shadows? A further note to myself– use a typewriter Why a typewriter, a projector of the written word a technology, which is obsolete, but which still makes visible a contemporary phenomenon, of spreading of words, of language But in the studio, the blackness of the typewriter also has its siren call, a drawing waiting to be done, a silhouette or shadow already there Now, what is the pleasure, the pressure behind the need to make the typewriter? The pressure is the crushed space between the object, what the object offers, and the drawing Its associations– the typewriter invented by Mr. Remington after this American Civil War when his engineers and factories were idle, AN oversupply of rifles, association with the obsolete sound of the keys hitting ribbon and paper, the flat forehand swat of the carriage return after the ping at the end of a line All of this hovers behind the shadow, behind the arm waiting to make the image, and then the possibilities and the invitation of the medium itself, the drawing, the tearing of paper, the steel strut, the light source And this expands quickly– walking around the studio, not imagining a specific image, but feeling the need, the urge behind it, seeing the different materials that are possible– the steel strut, the pacing out the scale, brown paper drawings of this size, first an ink study to test it out, then maybe this turns into an etching, a small cutout silhouette, going from wall to wall feeling the need, the urge, for making it Make, perhaps, an exploded typewriter with all the opening and closing of an arms width, but to put the idea aside My note to myself was, write the lecture in the morning Make the typewriter in the afternoon We’ve come from Plato to a cardboard typewriter This cardboard, flimsy structure, what hope is there in it? Finally, a belief in the combination of the outside world coming in and a whirlwind or a tumble, but not a whirlwind or a tumble but a leap or a spring, a vault onto the wall– that’s where the energy is This is what we miss in Plato, not just the obvious agency in making, but the possible agency also in seeing, the understanding of that which is not seen and being aware of the limits of seeing and being caught up, as with the image of the horse, being fooled, seeing the typewriter and knowing we are being fooled, by being made aware of our part in the construction of the image, our part in the construction of the illusion, but, most importantly, our part in the construction of ourselves It is in the gap between the object and its representation

that this energy emerges, the gap we fill in, in the shift from the monochromatic shadow to the color of the object, from its flatness to depth and heft, allowing us to be neither prisoners in the cave, unable to comprehend what we see, nor the all-seeing philosopher returning with all his certainty, but allowing us to inhabit the terrain in between, between what we see on the wall and what we conjure up behind our retinas Thank you