William Kentridge - If We Ever Get to Heaven

Still image from Other Faces

Amsterdam is a strikingly beautiful city, every street a picture postcard. This beauty is somewhat undermined by the city’s famed seedy underbelly, which could be ignored were it not for the type of tourist it attracts.

With that in mind, I took the short ferry trip over to the quieter bank of the IJ, and visited the EYE Film Institute. While initially attracted by the building’s distinctive shape and sharp lines, it was a showcase of work by illustrator and animator William Kentridge that had me transfixed.

The work of Kentridge is often created as a response to the social injustices he has seen in his native south Africa, and politics is a theme that resonates throughout his work. The centrepiece of this particular exhibition is More Sweetly Play the Dance, a 45-meter-long illuminated frieze. This depicts a parade of silhouetted figures marching in a procession, some carrying personal affects, others holding up the faces of Chinese revolutionaries, miners and ancient Romans, and takes place against the sound of brass, accordions and African song.

A second room contains eight screens for I Am Not Me, the Horse Is Not Mine (2008), an installation based on The Nose, a short story by the Russian writer Nikolai Gogol from 1836. However, it was Other Faces (2011), the tenth and most recent piece from his series Drawings for Projection (1989-2011) that I found truly exceptional. During this nine-minute long film, Kentridge films his own charcoal drawings, erasing and redrawing them – history constantly being overwritten – with each frame a work of art in its own right.

If We Ever Get to Heaven runs until 30 August.