A fortunate witness

Matthew Kentridge's new book gives readers an intimate insight into his brother William’s creative process.

The newly released book The Soho Chronicles: 10 Films by William Kentridge, written by the artist’s brother, Matthew, documents the evolution of technique, themes and ideas in William Kentridge’s series of animated films, 10 Drawings for Projection (1989 – 2011).

The films, created from drawings in his signature charcoal, feature the central character of Soho Eckstein, a Highveld mining magnate and Kentridge’s alter ego. The timeline of the series spans South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy. But the films are not about political events. Instead the saga traces a different and parallel arc – the character Soho’s gradual awakening from capitalist blockhead and cuckold to sober penitent – and it is this human quality that gives the films their power and enduring appeal.

The Soho Chronicles sheds new light on the artist and his alter ego. “One of the advantages of being the brother of William Kentridge is that you get kind of privileged access to what might be happening in his head at any time – what new ideas are capturing his imagination and what new experiments, techniques and collaborations are underway,” writes Matthew in the prologue of the book.

This has allowed me to see each film, not just as it emerged from the editing room at the very end of the process but also from its inception, from the vantage point of a fortunate witness to the act of creation itself.

Beyond the personal insights the volume offers, it is richly illustrated and also offers a special "augmented reality" feature. By downloading the nifty app to your smart phone or tablet, you can actually watch extracts from the films or animated sequences when paging thorough the book.

“This is a book about films, and William and I wanted readers to have an opportunity to see just what it was that I was writing about. We’d originally planned to include a DVD in a sleeve on the inside back cover with some clips, perhaps one complete film, and examples of some of William’s earliest experiments with animation. Fortunately, however, a better solution came along in the form of augmented reality,” Matthew says.

The official launch of the book will be hosted by the Goodman Gallery at The Labia theatre on 28 February at 10:00. Seating is limited so if you would like to attend simply send an RSVP email to heather@goodman-gallery.com with the subject line “Soho Chronicles launch”.

Visitors to Design Indaba Expo will be treated to a short presentation on 28 February at 15:00 where William and Matthew will be in conversation about the book at the Events Arena. The presentation will be followed by a book signing at the Book.exChange area on the expo floor.

The book is already available online through Amazon, and will be available through select museums and book shops worldwide.

Watch the Talk with William Kentridge