With “Before the war, it was the war. After the war, it is still the war” Berlin based visual artist and musician Mazen Kerbaj was a guest of the 2016 edition of MaerzMusik – Festival for Time Issues. The sound installation is Kerbaj’s very personal attempt to show and understand the war in his native Lebanon. For the Berliner Festspiele Blog, Mazen Kerbaj entered into a very intimate dialogue with William Kentridge’s “Drawing Lessons” which were part of the focus of last year’s Foreign Affairs festival. In his autobiographical lectures the South African visual artist, filmmaker and theatre director talked about his specific mode of working and about his political context, from the times of Apartheid until today.
I first encountered Kentridge’s work for the first time some years ago in a collective exhibition in a museum in Europe. I do not remember much of this exhibition, but I recall being struck by a kind of Méliès-like video. A year and a half ago, when I arrived in Berlin, I saw that there was an exhibition – “Kentridge/Dürer” –, and since I am a fan of Dürer’s etchings, I went to see it. This is where I really discovered Kentridge’s work, and associated it with the first video I saw years before. After that, I was lucky to see the huge retrospective of his work at the Martin-Gropius-Bau. This is where I bought a copy of “Six Drawing Lessons” because it was the only book on Kentridge available in English. Two weeks later, I was surprised to see he will be performing these “lessons” live at the Foreign Affairs festival at the Berliner Festspiele and I went to see them. This is where I started working on the project presented here, drawing directly on the book, while seeing the performances. I also took a lot of notes on the last page of the book, to be able to draw the rest afterwards. I still hope I can continue drawing and fill all the book one day, and hopefully publish it as a book on its own.
(To watch the video in HD, go to the YouTube website)