Brown Arts

William Kentridge and The Centre for the Less Good Idea

February 9 - June 16, 2024
A semester-long invitation to re-examine complex histories through image and performance

An Artistic Innovators Residency

Unfolding across campus February 9 to June 16, 2024

Embracing the central methodologies of The Centre for the Less Good Idea – collaborative making, free-spirited engagement with materials, the act of allowing oneself to be led by image, sound and impulse – William Kentridge and members of The Centre invite participants from across the Brown community to join in surfacing, rupturing, re-reading and activating the heavy histories and enduring realities. The Centre asks: How do we begin to look at an image collectively? What are the ways in which a visual archive – entrenched in the heavy histories – begins to speak? In provoking and surfacing the narratives embedded in these archives, it is music, performance, improvisation and collaboration that can become vital tools for re-reading images in a contemporary way.

-Financial Times

A glimpse into the artist's practice

As part of BAI's Artistic Innovators Collective programming, William Kentridge previewed his upcoming collaborative residency at Brown (September, 2023)

William Kentridge Lecture


Watch William Kentridge live at Brown Arts Institute; Sep. 13, 2023

A Residency in Four Parts

PART I: Houseboy

Public performances: February 9, 2024 at 7pm; February 10, 2024 at 3pm
The Lindemann Performing Arts Center

A scene from Houseboy
The cast of Houseboy. Photo by Zivanai Matangi.
Developed at The Centre for the Less Good Idea in Johannesburg, South Africa, and directed by William Kentridge, Houseboy is based on the 1956 novel by Cameroonian diplomat Ferdinand Oyono. Told through the diary of the protagonist Toundi Ondoua, Houseboy makes use of an ensemble cast to explore themes of narrative history, archival memory, and post-colonial identity through the lens of the colonized. A large backdrop produced by Kentridge—palm trees and dense foliage in black—sets the scene, and each character remains present on stage throughout while myriad live percussive sounds from just off stage, both punctuate and set the pace of the narrative. Post-performance conversations by Kentridge and Company will follow each presentation.

Learn More

February 9-10, 2024
The East Coast Premiere of William Kentridge's Staged Interpretation of the Novel by Cameroonian Diplomat Ferdinand Oyono.

PART II: Pepper’s Ghost Exploration

Public Sharings: February 22-23, 2024 at 5pm and 8pm
Fishman Studio, Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts


William Kentridge and a collaborator from The Centre for the Less Good IdeaFollowing two weeks of residency work on campus, in collaboration with Brown students, scholars, subject matter experts, and arts community members, The Centre for the Less Good Idea will share two public showings of their Pepper’s Ghost exploration on campus. Named after John Henry Pepper, who popularized it in 1862, Pepper’s Ghost is a theatrical illusion technique that uses a half-silvered mirror to create a hologram-esque figure. The Centre expands on this image-based technique to create illusory performative and narrative presentations, as live physical and musical performance interact with video installation. Audiences will note that this technique was also interpreted by Carrie Mae Weems in her recent installation, Lincoln, Lonnie, and Me, at Brown’s Bell Gallery. Aspects of this collaborative residency will inform future projects, including The Great Yes, The Great No, premiering at the LUMA Foundation in Arles, France in July 2024 as part of the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence.

Foundational commissioning support for the development and creation of The Great YES, The Great NO is provided by Brown Arts Institute. The performance will return to Brown in 2025-26.


In the News

PART III: Studio Process and Political Change: The Case of William Kentridge; Lecture by RISD Professor Leora Maltz-Leca

April 2, 2024
Martinos Auditorium, Granoff Center for the Creative Arts

Much ink has been spilled over William Kentridge’s innovative process of drawn animation.  For Rosalind Krauss, it invents a medium, ushering in the ‘post-medium’ condition of contemporary art. In this talk, I assess Kentridge’s graphic process from the viewpoint of Johannesburg and the politics of art making in 1980s and 1990s South Africa to argue that the stakes of studio process are local, immediate, and grounded in fast-moving currents of political change. Returning to the year 1989 – the year that the artist inaugurated his process of drawn animation in the initial Soho film –Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City After Paris, I propose that Kentridge’s studio process is embedded in the collapse of apartheid, the transition to democracy, and the imagery of processions that signaled regime change. 

Although the relationship of art to politics is long and vexed – not least because its grounded in French models ill-suited to an African postcolony – Kentridge’s studio process presents a timely, specific mode of politicized production embedded in the idea and logistics of mass social change. Through a fluid metaphorics of material thinking and embodied making, his work materializes political and economic change as drawn and animated form, fusing artistic process and political process in unusual ways.

Headshot of Leora Maltz-LecaBorn and raised in Durban, South Africa, Leora Maltz-Leca is the author of William Kentridge: Process as Metaphor and Other Doubtful Enterprises (University of California Press, 2018). Her book explores how the artist renders the physical processes of the studio—cutting, pasting and projecting light—as metaphors for the way we think and live.  Maltz-Leca has taught contemporary art at RISD since 2008, where she is professor in the Department of Theory & History of Art & Design. At present she is writing a book called The Currency of Contemporary African Art: Neoliberalism, Accumulation and Global Capital in the African Postcolonies. She holds degrees in art, philosophy and art history from Yale, Brown and Harvard.

Reserve Free Tickets

PART IV: No, It Is (2012)

On view April 26-June 16, 2024
Cohen Gallery, Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts

An image of triptych of three flipbook films
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery.
Photo credit: Cathy Carver
A triptych video installation translates Kentridge’s flip book, No, It Is (2012) into a film format across three flat screens, including Workshop Receipts, The Anatomy of Melancholy, and Practical Enquiries. The videos will run continuously in Brown’s Cohen Gallery, concluding the residency with an extended opportunity for the community to engage with works on campus. This installation is courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art and a gift of Tom and Alice Tisch.

Media Gallery

"This residency invites our communities to participate in and learn from the creative practice of boundary-pushing contemporary artists."

Avery Willis Hoffman Artistic Director, Brown Arts Institute

About the Artists

William Kentridge headshotWilliam Kentridge and the Centre for the Less Good Idea

William Kentridge is a draughtsman, performer, filmmaker, and is the founder of The Centre for the Less Good Idea. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Kentridge is internationally acclaimed for his drawings, films, theatre, and opera productions. Embracing collaboration and cross-pollination of various media and genres, including performance, film, literature, and more, his work frequently responds to the legacies of colonialism and apartheid, within the context of South Africa’s socio-political landscape.

In 2016, William Kentridge and Bronwyn Lace founded The Centre for the Less Good Idea, a space for responsive thinking through experimental, collaborative and cross-disciplinary arts practices, based in Maboneng, Johannesburg. The Centre has quickly gathered momentum and by 2022 has become a formative space for arts projects in South Africa and beyond. Between 2016 and 2022 over 400 individual performances, films and installations have been created and shown at The Centre and more than 700 artists of all disciplines have worked on projects at The Centre.

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Brown Arts’ IGNITE Series uplifts the spirit of artistic collaboration across Brown, Providence, the Rhode Island region, and beyond. Ignite your creative curiosity through this multi-year series of programs, activations, interventions, and investigations.