Since the mid 1970s, William Kentridge’s work has encompassed printmaking, theatre, filmmaking and drawing. Film became an increasingly important aspect of his work from the late 1980s, proceeding from his animation of charcoal drawings using the stop-motion technique, capturing them as they became visible before erasing and then reworking them. Kentridge’s practice is informed by the political and historical realities of South Africa while also addressing the broader human condition.
Zeno writing 2002 incorporates animation and archival film. A meditation on human vulnerability in the face of complex psychological and political realities, the film’s central anti-hero, Zeno (inspired by the protagonist of Italo Svevo’s 1923 novel La Coscienza di Zeno or Zeno’s Conscience), is never seen, but his presence and indecisive character are portrayed through vignettes of diaries and daily log entries. The centrality of the drawing process is emphasised in the work and merges seamlessly with historical war footage and torn paper cut-outs. Kentridge’s laborious step-by-step process recalls early filmmaking techniques and underlines the fragile and archival nature of the medium.