Title: Lily: I
Medium: Five colour lithograph and collage
Paper size: 57 x 40 cm
Image size: 43 x 29 cm
Edition size: 20
The Lucerne Symphony Orchestra in Switzerland commissioned William Kentridge to make a film to accompany the live performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op.93 in June 2022. The film is titled Oh To Believe in Another World.
“The central characters of the film are Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin; Shostakovich and his student Elmira Nazirova (about which there are different theories regarding her relationship with Shostakovich and the 10th Symphony and whether her name is embedded into some of the key signatures of the symphony); Mayakovsky and his lover Lily Brik. These characters appear as puppets, but are also performed by actors inside of puppets. The form is one of collage, and the larger proposition is that one needs to understand history as a form of collage. The artistic medium is a way of thinking about the historical events.
The story of Shostakovich and his complicated relationship to the state in the Soviet Union, from its early days just after the 1917 revolution, all the way through to Stalin’s death in 1953, provides the material for thinking visually about the trajectory that Shostakovich had to follow, from the early days of the Soviet Union to the writing of the symphony.
This is a retrospective look at the four decades of the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and 50s, from the perspective of 1953 when both Stalin died and the first performance of the symphony was presented. In the 1920s there was the death of Lenin; in the 1930s the suicide of Mayakovsky; in the 1940s, the assassination of Trotsky; in the 1950s the death of Stalin – and here we are, almost 70 years later. The report that remains of these decades is in the music of Shostakovich, the one who against expectation got away, and survived.” William Kentridge 2022