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Thursday, October 15, 2015

In Context: Refuse the Hour

William Kentridge’s phantasmagoric investigation of time, Refuse the Hour, comes to BAM on October 22. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #WilliamKentridge.

Program Notes

Refuse the Hour (PDF) 


Artist William Kentridge and physicist Peter Galison discuss the process of demonstrating the conception of time through art in their multimedia chamber opera Refuse the Hour.


“Time, Indulgent Muse” (BAM Blog)
BAM’s Susan Yung on the temporality of reading, the politics of Greenwich Mean Time, and other ideas that inform Refuse the Hour.


William Kentridge: Listening to the Image (University of Chicago)
A brilliant lecture-demonstration by Kentridge on the relationship of sound and image, the nuances of looking at trees, and more.

William Kentridge: How We Make Sense of the World (YouTube)
Provisionality. Uncertainty. Miming. Kentridge discusses these and other ideas essential to his approach to art.

Refuse the Hour Dramaturg Peter Galison on Einstein (Harvard University)
Einstein’s loftiest abstractions had their origins in the mundane mechanical problem of how to synchronize clocks.

William Kentridge on His Installation "The Refusal of Time" (The Metropolitan Museum)
“One of the things that the artist does,” says Kentridge, “is to take things we know but can’t see and make them visible.”

Now your turn...

What did you think? What struck you most about Kentridge’s idiosyncratic blend of art and science? Are there metronomes ticking in your head? Are you now well equipped to refuse the hour? Tell us what's on your mind in the comments below and on social media using #WilliamKentridge.


  1. Wow! This opera was hard to describe, but try to imagine this: a mad steampunk scientific traveling circus lab that is exploring the concept of time -- with a dash of Robert Wilson and a pinch of David Lynch thrown in for good measure. There were beautiful and other-worldly vocals by Ann Masina and Joanna Dudley. There was appealingly frantic and sometimes almost decaying atonal music -- and of course Kentridge's signature drawings and films. I was impressed by the incredible musical machines, and the creative use of megaphones, movement and dance. (There was even a megaphone dance performed by Dada Masilo which was brilliantly executed.) Then there was William Kentridge onstage himself. He told us stories and taught us science and metaphysics. It was a fascinating and entertaining evening -- and somewhere out there in the universe, light years away, it is playing over and over again …

  2. Wow, I loved this. Amazing.

  3. I could say so much about the multiple talents within the multiverse of "Refuse the Hour." However, let me take this time to praise Kentridge specifically for his performance. I did not anticipate his openness and charm, his playfulness--so winning. It's an evening I will long remember and, as time passes, even if I do manage to forget, I know I can always look and find it out there somewhere in space!

  4. Didn't love it, didn't hate it. When there was actually singing, it was pretty great. The Opera was really a sort-of science lecture with music. Sort of much ado about nothing

  5. Thought provoking, and entertaining. We love Kentridge's animated films, the singers, musicians and storyteller himself were outstanding.

  6. Having grown up in South Africa, roughly contemporaneously with Kentridge, I have been drawn to his imagery, feeling it to have some sort of vague yet powerful relevance to a perhaps imaginary shared experience . The Jewish family, black Africa, a history of oppression and resistance, depicted in a sort of neo-expressionism, the dominant school of South African art since the 1930s. The art on my parent's walls.
    The extraordinary critical acclaim and the frequent exposure of major works in New York has facilitated a growing acquaintance. The Nose, the Svevo thing at Lincoln Center Festival, Zankel Hall and Winterreise at Alice Tully last year. Lulu coming up.
    I've gone to it all, but have been increasingly perplexed, not so much by the complexity but by the acclaim.
    Must say - this production, was for me, virtually unwatchable. It was seriously incomprehensible. I was utterly amazed at the cheering standing ovation. Am I without the understanding seemingly possessed by the rest of the audience? Am I alone in this experience?
    I think I'll be taking a little break. (After Lulu).

  7. Appreciated the mise en scene. Very 1970s. An audience too quick with applause? Very 2010s.

  8. Very innovative show. I was struggling to understand what it was all about, but the music, narration and visuals were very enjoyable. Overall a thumbs-up.