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Kentridge’s Triumphs and Laments: Two Volunteers’ Perspective

Rome. The performance that developed April 21 and 22 2016 along the banks of the River Tiber was an inspiring gift by South African artist William Kentridge for the birthday of the city of Rome.

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Rome. The performance that developed April 21 and 22 2016 along the banks of the River Tiber was an inspiring gift by South African artist William Kentridge for the birthday of the city of Rome. His Triumphs and Laments: A Project for the City of Rome explores and puts on display the glories and the tragedies of the eternal city through the immediacy and directness that only images – and art – can have. Those images were both displayed on the river bank’s wall and held up by the processional bands of performers as standards, projected against the backdrop of the frieze (read more on this) in an evocative shadow play. The music composed by Philip Miller rendered the whole performance an actual theatrical piece as well as a quasi-sacral ritual aimed at paying homage to Rome’s history and art history.

However, Triumphs and Laments has also been a “masterpiece of participation” (triumphsandlaments.com). The aesthetic and ecstatic experience Rome offers is what attracted a large and diverse team of both Italian and international volunteers (from the American Academy in Rome, John Cabot University and other relevant institutions) to get intellectually and enthusiastically involved in such a magnificent art project. Water is life. The river is life. Today, the Tiber has reborn, and what it offers is a magical, touching, and, at times, ironic interaction with history and art history.

 

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William Kentridge, Triumphs and Laments. Piazza Tevere, Rome. Photo by gqitalia.it. Above: Triumphs and Laments, 2016, left processional band. Photo by Uberaura.

 

Giulia Carlettiassistant researcherAs a Roman and part of the research team – with the task of suggesting images that most resonantly symbolized the glories and the defeats of Rome – I personally saw this experience as a chance to reshape and become more aware of my own identity; an identity that needed to be reported entirely through images. Carrying out such vast research was like navigating through the pages of my own history, and that made me notice how, too often, we take our precious heritage and history for granted, as though it were a divine gift that does not need to be remembered or taken care of. My work of suggesting both tragic and triumphal episodes in the form of images – such as the photographs of the 1922 March on Rome and Bernini’s Santa Teresa – pushed me to reflect upon history’s teachings and warnings.

Maria Vittoria di SabatinoambassadorWorking closely with institutions, the artist himself and regularly attending lectures and meetings, I had the chance to learn more about Kentridge’s practice in the realization of Triumphs and Laments. William Kentridge’s frieze is an ironic play on the meaning of time: eternal images are projected into an ephemeral present essence and deprived of a long-lasting form. He defined his work as a long strip of images, similar to an unwrapped reel of film. And exactly like in old movies, in five years or so, the whole strip will slowly and inevitably fade to black. By the piece having an expiration date, Kentridge’s work tackles the issue of Rome being considered a monumental, museum place. As Achille Bonito Oliva suggests, and as the Romans well know, Rome is not monumental and immortal, but rather daily. Hopefully, as the artist said, his gift will not feel like an unpleasant imposition to the people living in Rome.   

After a B.A. in Art History, I am currently studying Visual Arts and Curatorial Studies at NABA, Milan. I have matured a strong interest in the research and the curatorship and in the anthropological and psychological nature of the visual arts.

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