Things to consider when experiencing Kentridge’s “Refuse the Hour”


Refuse the Hour was the most thought-provoking event I was able to attend in the fantastic spread of Fall 2015 Edwards Collective events. Below are a few thoughts I wrote down in my notebook about Kentridge’s avant-garde chamber piece. Timecodes are based on

  1. Metronomes and clocks give structure to time (1:39)
    1. Are the structures produced are relative to/dependent upon themselves?
    2. Why is rhythm so important?
    3. A set piece in Refuse the Hour involves a dancer wearing reflective cones on her arms and legs. She stands on a rotating disk (8:42)
      1. The audience is stunned by the bars of light sweep across the auditorium
      2. Occasionally, the dancer fluidly changes position, or the disk reverses direction
      3. The dancer is a sundial
        1. Her graceful movements point to the malleability of the technologies with which we give structure to time
  2. On the stage’s backdrop, Kentridge projects moving collages. Examples include his walking figures, their strides repeated on a loop, composed of different texts (5:38).
    1. Think of how historical writing is produced: it is collaged from multiple sources
    2. Human beings collage time (memories) to shape their identities
  3. Is it possible to have art without an audience?
    1. Kentridge says that a performance can be endlessly broadcasted into space, preserved in projected light, in the same way that light from distant stars eventually reaches Earth
      1. Based on this logic, his performance is a three-dimensional photograph that does not require an audience present
      2. A being in a different galaxy could experience Kentridge
      3. Because Kentridge does not have to perform for a present audience, this makes any performance of Refuse the Hour a rehearsal
      4. One performance is enough for the universe
  4. What is the purpose of the wooden apparatus (2:46)?
    1. The background in the BAM production is a projection of a bar magnet with iron filings swirling around it
      1. This behavior is a law of nature
    2. The arms of the wooden apparatus move at the behest of its puppeteer
      1. The wooden apparatus could be identified as a compass with a liberated needle
      2. Perhaps Kentridge is showing that human assignations of meaning to North and South are arbitrary, as they’ve come to connote racial-political divisions between hemispheres and nations
        1. Kentridge identifies the laws of the directional magnetic field in order to defuse North/South as a racial-political concept
  5. On the phrase, “Give us back our Sun” (see the corner of the screen in 9:26)
    1. Recalls the use of the sundial
    2. The division of the globe into meridians creates blocs of timezones that conflict with the time suggested by the position of the Sun over a village in say, South Africa
      1. Villagers and townspeople do not even have the freedom to say that they are running on their own time (Kentridge is more than hinting at apartheid)
      2. ‘Time’ is exported to countries in lower latitudes as a tool of colonialism 
      3. Kentridge cannot encourage a deposition of the time-meridian system, as this would lead to much confusion and chaos
        1. Kentridge has identified a paradox that perfectly captures the tension of wanting to cast off the system.
        2. Timezones, although presented as a tool of colonialism, must be maintained for the sake of a functional and invisible international bureacracy

By David Ting ’17

Categorized as Events