Mind Reading

Head III, 2007

Head III (2007) is a profile, a sculpture and a drawing at once. It’s a work by William Kentridge (1955-), a South African artist who is interested in transformations between materials, and differences in perspectives. Kentridge works across many mediums, ranging from drawing, printmaking and animation to theatre set and costume design. He was born in Johannesberg during the legalised racial segregation of the apartheid regime, and has continued to live and work there since the regime ended in 1994.

As one of many who bore witness to the brutality of the apartheid regime and its subsequent dismantling, Kentridge is sceptical of singular or authoritarian historical narratives. Much of his work grapples with the idea of different ways of knowing and understanding the world, and with recognising the existence of different, often competing viewpoints. For Kentridge, understanding history ‘is to understand the different ways of understanding the world, and also the sources of one’s own ignorance.’

Head III is one way of conceptualising this understanding. Using collaged fragments of text scanned from old books in Russian and English, Kentridge creates a three-dimensional lithograph across two axes. The outline of the head can make sense from one angle or the other, but its contents – the collaged text – remains forever undecipherable. In this sense, it’s a reminder that there are at least two sides to any story, and that we may never come to a complete understanding of either.