William Kentridge. Tummelplatz

Brodsky Center-Rutgers (USA) and Madrid (Spain), 2017.

Edition of 9 + 3AP + 1HC + 3 unbound exhibition sets, 2017

Height: 78.50 cm | Width: 43.50 cm | Depth: 5 cm | Weight: 6.5 kg

Tummelplatz was conceived and created by William Kentridge. The edition was directed by Elena Foster and produced by Ivorypress in December 2016. The book comprises two volumes, each of which contains ten stereoscopic photogravures by William Kentridge. The book was printed in an edition of sixteen: one bound exhibition set, three unbound exhibition/archive sets, three bound artist’s proof sets and nine bound edition sets.

The inside pages are printed on Hahnemühle Copperplate Bright White paper; the flyleaves on Takeo Shin-danshi paper in dark gray, charcoal and black; and the cover on Takeo Tela paper in black.

Tummelplatz arose out of a wish to make, in the most analogue way, a virtual reality pop- up book: to play with three dimensions and the essentially flat format of paper and a book. The idea was to use stereoscopic photography to give an illusion of depth in images, of layers coming forward towards the viewer from the book.

There is a burgeoning of contemporary digital techniques of creating an illusion of three dimensions. But for this book we went back to the nineteenth-century processes of stereoscopic photography and particularly photogravure printing, as a way of reproducing the photographs. The format of the book was decided by the historical format of stereoscopic aerial photographs used by map-makers. To make each stereoscopic image, I made a three-dimensional drawing in my studio: distant horizons, landscape and distant elements of the landscape were pinned to the walls of the studio (charcoal was used to make the drawing), and foreground images, objects, and texts were drawn and arranged on an angled table-top in front of the wall. A pair of stereoscopic photographs was taken of each one of the landscapes, and these were turned into photogravures by Randy Hemminghaus, using the technique of light sensitive gelatin applied to a copper plate and etched in different strengths of acids, to achieve the rich tonal grey scale characteristic of photogravures.

The three-dimensional drawings were made over a period of approximately two years. About forty images were made of which twenty were selected to constitute the double volume of Tummelplatz. Alongside the making of the images and photogravures was the parallel work of finding the right papers, binding and machinery of making the book.

Thematically, the series of images worked from the studio out, thinking of the studio as a place for free play, a tummelplatz. ‘Tummelplatz’ was a term used by Freud to describe the space between the analyst and their patient: a space of contestation, performance, and free associative metaphoric tumbling, letting one idea play off another. In the context of the Tummelplatz images, it was to allow the free play of images and thoughts, from the erotic to the political, to be played out in the studio in the hope that there would be associations that arise from them that have echoes for viewers of the work.

A stereoscope is vey different from a still photograph. You look across a photograph. You travel through a stereoscopic image. It is never a gaze. It is always an investigation, even if brief. Your eyes have to change their focus to the different depths. Literally it entails work, using the muscles of the eye, to align the two different images of the same object in the two photographs. With texts in the image, it is not the even horizon of the printed page but it demands that you go into the image and back to the front, the focus of your eyes highlighting different phrases or images as you make this jump. There are riddles and clues but not necessarily clear answers.


Tummelplatz, Ivorypress, Madrid, 02/11/2017 – 27/01/2018
Portrait as Autobiography: Reflections on Identity, Bernal Espacio, Madrid, 03/02/21 – 27/02/2021
Highlights from the Ivorypress Collection, Ivorypress, Madrid, 22/02/2022 – 17/12/2022
Sensational Books, Weston Library, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, 27/05/2022 – 04/12/2022

Ivorypress and the artist

Fundación Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain
Private collections