We really hope to enjoy in on the Tiber’s embankment walls, between Sixtus Bridge and Mazzini Bridge, the 550 m long frieze, made up of 90 silhouettes 9 m high,  that William Kentridge projected after having meditated on Rome’s complex and long history.

The very original work is the outcome of 12 years elaboration on the theme of “TRIUMPHS AND LAMENTS”,

so sounds the work’s title,  something inextricably connected to the life of the city that was the capital of the ancient world first,  then, after imploding at the beginning of the Middle Ages, nurtured its rebirth through the recognition and consequent power its Christian community’s leader was achieving,  thus becoming the capital of the European religion and arts for centuries,  ending, with the unification of Italy, to be the new Italian capital city.

Kentridge turned to the help of a historians’ team who pointed his attention on relevant characters among all those who took part in this city’s fascinating history, and gave to them the typical aspect of living shadows,  the main feature of this artis’ s style.
Through them he tried to explore dominant tensions, conflicts, turning points along with victories and defeats with which the fabric of this city’s life is woven, arranging them on a continuous frieze, in tune with ancient imperial Rome’s most peculiar monument , the honorary column.

What an unique occasion for our city to welcome the pictures elaborated by such a great artist,  such a deep soul and mind, looking at our history from the point of view of a person born and grown in another continent with a different culture, in a community torn by terrible, painful contrasts.

He was fascinated by Rome, the first place he visited at the age of 12 when for the first time he went out of South Africa,  as he told in an interview, struck by the extraordinary history of this city, and by the astonishing effect given by the, at the same time, merging into one another and contrasting of the innumerable marks left by the time.   Struck also by the craziness of its traffic and of its enigmatic affairs at different life of the public life….
All this found a strong resonance inside his  very creative mind.

Invited to Rome by the american artist Kristin Jones, who recently put up the “Tevereterno Project”, aiming at enhancing the Tiber, Rome’s river, as primary source of life in this special urban context, as well as for the symbolic value of its watery nature.
Water is movement, light, like life itself a running and reflecting being in a never ending change,  continuously creating and altering views, a decisive presence,  the perfect symbol of a movemented still open destiny, like the one of Rome

TRIUMPHS AND LAMENTS is the result of a synergy of these two fertile artistic personalities’ responsiveness to Rome.
Thus, the Tiber is the chosen setting for a site-specific work created by Kentridge to play on different levels with Rome as the place of great deeds and routs, unbelievable ups and downs, reversals of every kind, whirling movements that continuously and unexpectedly change into one another.
Kentridge is a master in suggesting this kind of transformation, in which things take on a new shape pushed on by the time,  enlivened and at the same time erased by the memory,  poor fading appereances, a stimulus for the imagination to go on, to complete them, or to make a leap into the still unknown using them as a springboard.
To translate into images this kind of extremely mobile, instable matter,  his quite ingenious proposal is to use a non traditional artistic medium (he’s known for exploring new artistic mediums), the one which is in itself the embodiment of the impermanence of things whose essential dimension is the time.

He created a kind of gigantic stencils to be put on the dirty surface of the travertine embankment walls to follow their silhouettes with a jet of water which,  by removing the dark dirty layer from the wall, give shape to a picture bound to a destiny of progressive changing into its inevitable loosing form and consistency, to get to a stage of complete evanescence with the passing of time, to only survive in people’s memory.

A non-invasive technique bound to a reversible process which even gives itself as a partial cleaning of layers of dirt, offering an unedited perspective on both Rome’s grandiosity and failures.

It’s truly hoped that the Roman burocracy and its too slow moving responsiveness towards genuine creativity, often simply due to its inability to find  for it an index in the known range of artistic undertakings, will soon give to this city’s community and to all those who will come to visit it the chance to enjoy and share such a great gift.

Or should we think that a free gaze on our history,  greatness and flaws, is what is feared,  is what still holds back the permission to go on with such an innovative project ?

Paola Bargigli
Certified Guide of Rome