Refuse the Hour

Performance Overview

Is it possible to materialize time on a stage? To answer this question, it is at the line between art and science that William Kentridge carries us along in the company of the physicist Peter Galison, a Harvard professor.

William Kentridge interleaves an astonishing range of visual and sound languages, setting dance, music, video and machines, performance, lectures and drama against one another.
William Kentridge is on stage to deliver a fragmented lecture.

The piece also sets on stage a performer, three singers or vocalists, seven musicians, a number of strange machines, and a set of videos.

Refuse the Hour is played as a frontal device, in a theatre or concert hall.

Duration: 1h20.

More information can be found at TOMORROW LAND.


Video Preview

Introduction by Kentridge

A projection on a ceiling. Audience members can see the images leaning their heads back, looking up; or look down into small mirrors they each hold. The archive of images held in the air can be brought down to the private view. This is the starting point for our project. The ceiling projection was abandoned (we did not find the right ceiling). The idea was consigned to ‘the room of failures’ – yet to be constructed. Another starting point. An invitation by the Paris institution  aboratoire, to do a project with a scientist. A series of conversations with Peter Galison commenced (ongoing). The project changed from the pre-history of relativity to a general consideration of time.
A third alternative starting point. An invitation, and a beautiful bombed shell of a theatre, from dOCUMENTA. It was the right place to expand the consideration and making of the project on time. (The beautiful bombed theatre disappeared – to hold the air-conditioning unit of a new hotel.)
A fourth starting point. An interest in working with the dancer Dada Masilo. The desire and the intention needed a subject. A particle collision. The conversation with the scientist became a duet for movement and voice.
A fifth starting point. From the conversations with Peter Galison, a series of ideas and metaphors erupted, each idea needing to become materialised. Synchronicity into projected metronomes. Time into sound. A need to follow the metaphors and make them visible, audible.
A sixth starting point. A team assembled. Philip Miller (composer), to turn time into sound. Catherine Meyburgh (video editor), to orchestrate the projected images. Jonas Lundquist, to make mechanical (a bellows and a bicycle wheel) the principles of relativity. Christoff Wolmarans and Louis Olivier to do the same (a bicycle wheel and a megaphone). Sabine Theunissen (scenic designer) to make the context for the machines, the dance, the music, the projections. Greta Goiris (costume designer) to find the language in cloth and clothes for what had become an opera. Luc de Wit, to find the orchestration of the stage movements of the actors and musicians. And then an ancillary team of musicians, singers and organisers.
Until there was more team than project – and then the project filled the gaps.
William Kentridge


Extracts from the Underground

Philip’s latest project, Extracts from the Underground, is currently running at Wits Arts Museum (WAM), from June 5 to 26. Opening hours are from Wednesdays to Sundays 10am to 4pm.

Extracts from the Underground is an original South African sound and visual installation which tries to personalise the human experience within the anonymity of the industrial mining sector.

The sound and pictures will be pumped into the streets and people passing WAM will hear the sounds of Miller’s constant collaborator Bham Ntabeni, the vocalist and musician and see the videos of the brilliant Catherine Meyburgh as they’re projected on to the glass windows and walls of the museum. Nearly two years on from the strikes at Marikana’s Lonmin Platinum Mine, South Africans are still trying to process and understand the killing of 34 miners by armed police. The scenes broadcast throughout the mass media bring the horrors of a seemingly concluded past into an increasingly troubled present

To read more about the installation, visit this iol article: “A musical journey down the mineshafts”.

You can see the succeeded project pitch on the ISPA (International  Society for the Performing Arts) website.

IOL Extracts 2

Rewind Cantata


“An enduring masterpiece of diverse choral musical, cultural and oral traditions” – THE STAR S.A.

“Ambitious…provocative” – NEW YORK TIMES

“The Cantata brought together the cry of our country-our pain and fears, our hopes and especially our triumphs and joys in the way we as South Africans can best express these emotions-in music and song. It was a deeply moving, most powerful and uplifting experience. It is so much more than a concert. It is a wonderful vehicle for telling our history and a contribution to nation building.” – Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus


REwind: A Cantata for Voice, Tape & Testimony combines vocal soloists, chorus, and string octet with stunning projected images to celebrate the human spirit in South Africa that rose above the horror and evil of the deeds that were committed in the name of Apartheid. Composer Philip Miller has endeavored to express in music the South African spirit as it manifested itself during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings that began in East London, South Africa in 1996. The songs in REwind, which mix operatic and traditional South African styles, are built around actual testimonies and weave recorded audio samples from the hearings into the music. The physical environment, designed by Gerhard Marx, creates a visual context that illuminates the full power of the cantata: through the use of ingeniously animated projections of photographs and text the testimonies literally take form, enveloping the chorus on stage. And as the words and images settle onto the everyday world, the spaces between the victim and transgressor, those who deliver testimony and those who listen, merge.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission had been described in many ways: a Greek drama; a melodrama; a spectacle; a farce. The deliberations of the TRC took place on a stage in a hall. The backdrop was fifty years of Apartheid. On stage were the good guys and the bad guys, the priests and the peasants, whites and blacks, cadres and cowards, women and children, heroes and informants, Hindus, heathens, Muslims and Methodists, and all told their personal lives to the country. It was narrative and counter-narrative, protagonist and antagonist. For months on end, ordinary South Africans described the devastation of their lives—some used humor, other used imagery. Some could hardly speak, others rambled on as if it was no longer possible to find a logical thread in their lives. Some told their stories with the dignity of the elderly in the rural areas, others with the phrasing of the action packed cities. The atmosphere was soaked with grief. On another stage the perpetrators were telling their side. Some were proud of what they did; others were ashamed. Some were completely destroyed by their inhumane acts; others felt betrayed by their race and political leaders. The atmosphere was soaked with guilt. Piece by piece the collective memory of South Africans was built. We learned that the country belonged to the voices that tell its stories. When people could no longer speak, they sang. When they could no longer sing, they prayed. When they could no longer pray, they started talking again.

REwind is a work with no real parallel: both an extraordinary piece of music and digital art and a historical document with tremendous topical relevance. Above all, it is a commemoration of the dignity of those victims who suffered under the regime.