AO On Site Performa 09: William Kentridge’s ‘I Am Not Me, The Horse Is Not Mine’

November 18th, 2009

William Kentridge, I Am Not Me, The Horse Is Not Mine, A Performa 09 Premiere, Photo by Paula Court, Courtesy of Performa, IMAGE 1
William Kentridge’s ‘I Am Not Me, The Horse Is Not Mine,’ Photo by Paula Court, Courtesy of Performa

On November 9th, as part of Performa 09, William Kentridge presented ‘I Am Not Me, The Horse Is Not Mine,’ a lecture and animated performance that is related to his upcoming production of Dmitri Shostakovich’s 1928 opera ‘The Nose,’ at the Metropolitan Opera. The opera is based on the short story by Gogol of the same name about a man whose nose runs away from him and takes on a life of its own. Central to the story and Kentridge’s performance are the ideas of divided selves and authorial doubt. As Kentridge relays the story, an animated version of himself comes onstage, leading him to pause repeatedly and look over his shoulder, to walk over and quizzically inspect his doppelgänger.

William Kentridge, I Am Not Me, The Horse Is Not Mine, A Performa 09 Premiere, Photo by Paula Court, Courtesy of Performa, IMAGE 2
William Kentridge’s ‘I Am Not Me, The Horse Is Not Mine,’ Photo by Paula Court, Courtesy of Performa

The lecture meanders across several tangents with corresponding video and animation. The artist talks of deciding whether to go to bed early or go out to a bar, of his anxiety late at night over what to include in the lecture. He lists everything that flies through his mind in a period of a few minutes as the screen behind him shows him restless in bed, fully dressed, as his wife sleeps next to him. His second version of himself reappears, along with a third, visibly doubting his narrative and rearranging furniture on the scene. They “give” him his notes, which are garbled and out of sequence, and as he throws them in frustration, they gather them up.

William Kentridge, I Am Not Me, The Horse Is Not Mine, A Performa 09 Premiere, Photo by Paula Court, Courtesy of Performa, IMAGE 3
William Kentridge’s ‘I Am Not Me, The Horse Is Not Mine,’ Photo by Paula Court, Courtesy of Performa

Well known for his animations and drawings that explore the underbelly of race and apartheid in South Africa, where the artist was born, this performance dealt with a different period of historical conflict, the Soviet purges of the 1930. Kentridge read comically from the transcript of Nikolai Bukharin, and asked if Trotsky was the “nose” of the Communist Party, a part of the self that takes itself away from the whole to brattily oppose the original. The performance ended with a parade of jerky Soviet-style animated figures protesting against the harsh conditions imposed upon the Russian people by the Soviet regime.

William Kentridge, I Am Not Me, The Horse Is Not Mine, A Performa 09 Premiere, Photo by Paula Court, Courtesy of Performa, IMAGE 4
William Kentridge’s ‘I Am Not Me, The Horse Is Not Mine,’ Photo by Paula Court, Courtesy of Performa

William Kentridge’s ‘I Am Not Me, The Horse Is Not Mine,’ though the title of similar films and lectures, was a Performa 09 premiere. Performa is a performance art biennial taking place this year through the month of November throughout New York City. A major survey of Kentridge’s work is now at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and will travel to MoMA in New York in March.

Related Links:
William Kentridge: I Am Not Me, The Horse Is Not Mine [Performa 09]
William Kentridge: I Am Not Me, The Horse Is Not Mine [David Krupt]
Performa 09: William Kentridge on Divided Selves
[NY Times]
Nosing Around in Many, Many Forms [NY Times]
Kentridge nose his history [Mail & Guardian]
“I Am Not Me, the Horse is Not Mine” by William Kentridge [Capetown Today]
On the pleasure of self-deception [Japan Times]