William Kentridge, KABOOM!, 2018. Installation view, William Kentridge: Let Us Try for Once, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, 2019. Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York. © William Kentridge
(Boston, MA—October 23, 2020) The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) presents the U.S. museum premiere of William Kentridge’s KABOOM! (2018), a recent acquisition and room-filling multimedia installation that addresses the history of African porters drafted into service for German, British, and French colonial powers during World War I. KABOOM! is a seventeen-minute, three-channel video set to a rousing orchestral score of both African and European musical traditions co-composed by Philip Miller and Thuthuka Sibisi. The exhibition opens to members on Wednesday, November 18 and at ICA Free Thursday Night on November 19 for the public. Advance timed tickets required at icaboston.org/tickets. On view through May 23, 2021, KABOOM! is organized by Jeffrey De Blois, Assistant Curator and Publications Manager, with Anni Pullagura, Curatorial Assistant.
“For over fifty years, William Kentridge has created gripping and profound works that address the human condition and the history of social injustice in South Africa, specifically the prolonged effects of colonialism and the apartheid system. Using a variety of mediums from drawing, animation, film, and performance, he transforms painful histories into powerful stories that evoke the trauma and endurance of colonial legacies. The themes of Kentridge’s significant work KABOOM! are particularly resonant during this time of global pain and reckoning,” said Jill Medvedow, the ICA’s Ellen Matilda Poss Director. “Presenting this work, newly acquired for the ICA Collection, deepens our commitment to share the art of William Kentridge with Boston audiences.”
Projected onto a scale model of the stage used in Kentridge’s theatrical production The Head & the Load (2018), which premiered at Tate London and later at New York’s Park Avenue Armory, KABOOM! employs collage as a narrative medium, “bringing different fragments together to find a provisional history,” as the artist explains. Embodying the theatrical intensity of The Head & the Load at gallery scale, silhouettes of porters march across cut-up fragments of colonial maps alongside the writings of Reverend John Chilembwe, philosopher Frantz Fanon, and artist Tristin Tzara, among others. Its title comes from the Ghanaian proverb, “the head and the load are the troubles of the neck,” which here recalls both the physical weight of goods, services, and weapons that porters—men, women, and children—carried for colonial soldiers, as well as their place in a global war that violently remade the continent’s borders towards the end of what would become known as the imperialist Scramble for Africa. A way of speaking back to the incomplete story of colonialism, KABOOM! envelops the gallery in a visual landscape that traverses memory and narrative, revealing our understanding of history to be a fragmented relationship to the past.
About the artist
William Kentridge (b. 1955 in Johannesburg, South Africa) is a multi-disciplinary artist best known for wide-ranging works that examine the paradoxes of settler colonialism and apartheid in South Africa. His multidisciplinary practice weaves together drawing, print, animation, and more, to recompose our understandings of the past, emphasizing, as he says, “what we’ve chosen not to remember.” One of the most significant artists of our time, Kentridge has exhibited widely internationally, including recent solo exhibitions at Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH; Reina Sofia, Madrid; Whitechapel Gallery, London; SF MoMA, San Francisco; and National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, among many others. His work has been included in group exhibitions, and he has participated in several international exhibitions of contemporary art, including the Sharjah Biennial, United Arab Emirates; the Venice Biennale; Gwangju Biennial, Korea; Liverpool Biennial, UK; Documenta; and the Moscow Biennial, among others. Educated at the University Witwatersrand and the Johannesburg Art Foundation, Kentridge is the recipient of numerous awards, including honorary doctorates from University of Pretoria, South Africa, and Royal College of Art London. With this presentation of KABOOM!, Kentridge returns to the ICA in the first solo presentation since his 2014 exhibition Kentridge’s The Refusal of Time.
About the ICA
Since its founding in 1936, the ICA has shared the pleasures of reflection, inspiration, imagination, and provocation that contemporary art offers with its audiences. A museum at the intersection of contemporary art and civic life, the ICA has advanced a bold vision for amplifying the artist’s voice and expanding the museum’s role as educator, incubator, and convener. Its exhibitions, performances, and educational programs provide access to the breadth and diversity of contemporary art, artists, and the creative process, inviting audiences of all ages and backgrounds to participate in the excitement of new art and ideas. The ICA is located at 25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA, 02210. The Watershed is located at 256 Marginal Street, East Boston, MA 02128. For more information, call 617-478-3100 or visit our website at icaboston.org. Follow the ICA at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
KABOOM! was acquired through the generosity of Amy and David Abrams, James and Audrey Foster, Charlotte Wagner and Herbert S. Wagner III, Jeanne L. Wasserman Art Acquisition Fund, and Fotene and Tom Coté Art Acquisition Fund.