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William Kentridge: Second-hand Reading (2013)

December 16, 2020–January 31, 2021, Multipurpose Hall

Second-hand Reading (William Kentridge, South Africa 2013, 7 min., HD video)

This lyrical animated video by internationally acclaimed artist William Kentridge (South African, b. 1955), transforms a 1914 edition of Cassell’s Cyclopædia of Mechanics with pages inserted from a 1936 publication of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary into a flip-book background. Rendered in charcoal, ink, and watercolor, the artist’s ruminations are explored through a selection of recurring figures, poetic aphorisms, and landscapes traversed by Kentridge’s own restlessly pacing form. When commenting on this work, Kentridge describes a book “as a kind of material depiction of one’s head, of the number of thoughts that can zoom past, like the phrases in a dictionary or encyclopedia.” 

The soundtrack is a traditional funeral hymn sung in Sesotho language performed by the composer Neo Muyanga in response to the 2012 police massacre of 34 striking mine workers at Marikana, South Africa. The following is a translation of the lyrics into English: 


When the rain comes again / in torrents

When it rains / please remember me

See how thirsty / and wretched I am

Please permit some drops / to fall

And wet me / a little too