William Kentridge
Preparing the Flute, 2005

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Preparing the Flute
Artist name
William Kentridge
Date created
video installation
model theater with drawings (charcoal, pastel, and colored pencil on paper) and 35mm animated film transferred to video, with sound, 21:06 min.
95 in. × 44 in. × 60 1/2 in. (241.3 cm × 111.76 cm × 153.67 cm)
Date acquired
The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, fractional purchase and promised gift
© William J. Kentridge
Permanent URL
Artwork status
Not on view at this time.

Audio Stories

The artist on action-based drawing

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SFX: The Birdcatchers Theme from Mozarts Magic Flute plays on a single flute. We also hear the sounds of erasure and pastels being rubbed hard, the excess brushed away, or blown. Footsteps between sentences, back and forth. 



South African artist William Kentridge crosses genres – creating installations, films, drawings, and operas. He tells stories in delightful, animated ways, while also wrestling with big ideas. About the power of transformation. Stillness, and movement. Light and dark. 

These images relate to the artists staging of the opera The Magic Flute. Kentridge built a model theatre — a kind of laboratory for his ideas– that you can see in the next room. But for now, lets spend some time with these drawings. Theyre like a peek behind the curtains into the artists imagination. 

Kentridge draws image on top of image, layering the shapes and ideas over each other as they occur to him. Sometimes he erases what hes drawn, but he leaves enough traces behind to become part of the animation, too.  



A drawing is done on a sheet of paper that’s on the wall of a studio and half-way across the studio is the camera. Say four paces away… 



This interview with Kentridge was recorded in his studio – so, it’s a little noisy. 

And I’ll draw the first image, and shoot two frames with the camera, then walk back across the studio to the drawing. And on the same sheet of paper, on the drawing– not make a whole new drawing, but just erase and change the shape of the white line minutely, maybe add some charcoal below.  



In these drawings, we can see the images evolving in front of our eyes. 



All that you see at each moment is the present. In other words, the state of the drawing at that moment. And its very much in the belief that in that physical walk between the drawing and the camera, in that physical process—it’s not a mental process, its a physical process– new images and ideas suggest themselves. Before that shot, after that shot, what that shot can develop into.


SFX: The music finishes with a flourish 

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Other Works by William Kentridge

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