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Smash the thing: William Kentridge, classical antiquity, and his Refusal of Time in O Sentimental Machine

Agbamu, S. ORCID: (2022) Smash the thing: William Kentridge, classical antiquity, and his Refusal of Time in O Sentimental Machine. Classical Receptions Journal, 14 (2). pp. 264-287. ISSN 1759-5142

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1093/crj/clab017


This article examines a 2018 exhibition of William Kentridge’s work, entitled O Sentimental Machine, at the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung in Frankfurt. This exhibition placed the South African artist’s work in confrontation with the museum’s collections, which offer an overview of sculpture from antiquity to early modernity. The exhibition draws together themes explored in Kentridge’s sustained engagement with Greek and Roman antiquity: critiques of triumphant narratives of history; questions of memorialization and ruination; and the probing of narratives of enlightenment, which begin with Plato’s allegory of the cave (Rep. 514a–521b). The first half of the article considers Kentridge’s dialogues with Greek and Roman antiquity in his wider works before turning to his Triumphs and Laments (2016), a series of images telling the story of Rome, imprinted on the embankment walls of the Tiber. The second half focuses on O Sentimental Machine, paying particular attention to The Refusal of Time, a piece presented at the exhibition. The article argues that this piece offers a compelling challenge to narratives of ‘civilisation’, at the centre of which lie hegemonic notions of time, underpinned by constructions of the classical tradition. Kentridge thus offers a vision for emancipatory engagements with Greek and Roman antiquity.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > Classics
ID Code:115981
Publisher:Oxford Academic

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