The Dictionary Art of William Kentridge

William Kentridge Art Culture

South African artist William Kentridge’s ink drawings on dictionary pages direct our attention to the uncanny, almost magical way that language and meaning function.

There must be a Wittgenstein reference in Kentridge’s work, as it was Wittgenstein who transformed metaphysical coffee house chatter when he said: “Meaning is use.” In other words, we create meaning by living, by using what is around us, and language is everywhere around.

Anyway, Kentridge’s images are deeply cool. Above, a naked man occupies the space between “good-tempered” and “gore.”

Below, the artist shows us the not-so-wide gap between “pornography” and “portable.”


William Kentridge Art Culture


The woman below, who resembles a tea kettle, marks the divide between “preservative” and “press.”
William kentridge art culture



However, for Kentridge, a naked lady with upheld arms stands in front of words like “towered” and “toxic.”



william kentridge art culture


Finally, the word “turn” has so many meanings, so many uses, that it gets its own page.


william kentridge art culture


Photos taken in Bogotá’s Museo del Banco de la República, where the exhibit “Fortuna” is open until Monday, July 7th.  


  1. etymologicalistic

    These are so interesting! I hadn’t heard of this kind of artwork before. I especially like the ‘towered’ and ‘toxic’ one – I feel like that one resonated with me the most. The only – although tenuous – link I can make with this is the famous Dr Johnson’s Dictionary which, one could argue, is a piece of art itself with some of the definitions given in that!

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