William Kentridge History of Main Complaint 1996 | Art.co.za | Art in South Africa
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History of Main Complaint 1996

Animated film using charcoal and pastel drawings; 35mm film transferred to video; 5 min 50sec.

Question of guilt and responsibility weigh down Soho Eckstein. He lies in a coma in hospital bed, surrounded by surgeons trying to rouse him. We watch his thoughts as they come to us through x rays, CAT-scans, sonars. How paralyzing is the weight of his memories, how to find the event to rouse him?

Kentridge merges Soho and Felix into a single semi-autographical figure. The film begins with Soho in a business suit lying in a hospital bed surrounded by surgeons all of whom, like their patient, are wearing pin-striped suits. It becomes apparent that he has some kind of medical 'event', and that he is attached to several support machines, and is receiving intensive care. While his organs are surveyed, the viewer is transported along the road which allows the viewer to experience the journey which he has undertaken to this point.

The title of the film refers to that medical formulation for decribing the aetiology of a disease in a patient. 'The main complaint' is that which ultimately kills the individual, and Soho's 'main complaint' seems to be his own sense of culpablity.

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