As part of its Great Texts / Big Questions series, the GIPCA presents Negotiating the absurd: migration and citizenship in The Nose by Dr Andrew Hennlich on Thursday, August 13th at UCT’s Hiddingh Hall, Gardens, Cape Town.

Assistant Professor of Art History at Western Michigan University, Dr Andrew Hennlich will present this lecture as a follow up to the presentation at GIPCA by renowned artist William Kentridge. Kentridge’s presentation, Putting the ‘S’ into Laughter in 2010, looked at Gogol’s short story The Nose. In 2009, Kentridge directed a new production of The Nose, (composer Dmitri Shostakovich’s first opera), which premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

The Nose tells the absurd story of a man who awakes to find his nose missing from his face, discovering the nose has entered the Czarist bureaucracy at a higher rank than him. Kentridge’s direction of The Nose used anamorphic sculptures, becoming a companion to the absurd, to examine metaphors of diaspora and citizenship. These themes merge with Shostakovich’s evocation of misidentification, citizenship, exodus, and the threat of the mob under the bureaucracy of Stalinism. 

According to Hennlich, this production of The Nose was approached through the discourse of the absurd. Kentridge derived his interpretation of the absurd from a photograph of the 2008 anti-immigrant riots, fueled by anxieties over unemployment and a lack of development in South Africa’s urban townships. The photograph published, in the Sunday Times shows protestors brandishing golf clubs, a curio giraffe, and a tetherball pole; using images of suburban leisure as weapons. The absurd Kentridge argues, forces people to come to terms with how they make sense of the bits of information they receive from the world. By placing these fragments of information into a narrative, the absurd becomes a potent historical tool.

Assistant Professor of Art History in the Gwen Frostic School of Art at Western Michigan University, Dr Hennlich is currently finishing a monograph, (un)Fixing the Eye:  William Kentridge and the Optics of Witness, which reads the optical devices in Kentridge’s animations and works for theatre as metaphors for the entwined relationships between witness, memory and history in South Africa.  He is also curating an exhibition After the Thrill is Gone:  Fashion, Politics and Culture in Contemporary South African Art for the Richmond Center for Visual Art to open in 2016.  The exhibition examines sartorial production referenced in contemporary South African art as a critical language for understanding the historical function of ‘newness’ in post-apartheid South Africa.

Hennlich writes widely on contemporary art and politics including chapters in Film, History, Public Memory (Palgrave MacMillan, 2015), Making Futures (Plymouth College of Art, 2014), German Colonialism Revisited (University of Michigan Press, 2013), essays in esseImage & TextRubricetc., and catalogue essays for Julia Rosa Clark, Pierre Fouché, Daniel Halter, and Never Lopez.

The presentation, followed by an open question and answer session, will take place at Hiddingh Hall, University of Cape Town (UCT) Hiddingh Campus, 31 – 37 Orange Street, Cape Town on Thursday, August 13th 2015.

Refreshments will be served from 17:00. No booking is necessary and all are welcome.

Images: William Kentridge The Nose; photo: Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera

Download the Andrew Hennlich audio recording

Venue: Hiddingh Hall

Address: UCT Hiddingh Campus, 31 Orange Street, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa