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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  March 30, 2021 12:30am-1:01am BST

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lawyers in the us city of minneapolis have set out their opening arguments in the trial of a white former police officer accused of killing a black man, george floyd. the prosecutor replayed to the court the full nine minutes video showing the former officer kneeling on mr floyd's neck as he struggled to breathe. borisjohnson has asked people to "proceed with caution" as more coronavirus restrictions are eased in england. groups of six — or two households, are now allowed to meet outside, and outdoor sports venues can reopen. but the prime minister stressed it wasn't the moment for complacency. vessels are sailing through the suez canal again — after it had been blocked for a week by a container megaship. 12% of world trade goes through the canal.
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now on bbc news, it's hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur. much of the art we love is presented via a medium — be it a canvas, a recording or celluloid. but my guest today is an artist whose primary is resource is her own body. marina abramovic is the world's most famous and acclaimed performance artist. in the course of a remarkable career, she's pushed herself to the very limits of physical endurance and stirred intense reaction from audiences confronting her eye to eye. her art and life are one, so what do they tell us?
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marina abramovic in upstate new york, welcome to hardtalk. hello, everybody. it's a pleasure to have you on the programme. i want to begin, if i may, with the relationship you have with your audience, with your viewer, because it seems to me there can be no more intimate relationship than the one that you forge with the people who come to see your work, because you are literally eye to eye or even skin to skin. do you relish that? you know, so many artists or performers�* backgrounds have a different approach to the public. some of them actually don't need the public — they go into a kind of zone and it doesn't matter how many people are watching them. but i'm not one of them. for me, every single
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person in the audience, every single person in the — it's important and matters. and i have to keep relationship — emotional, physical, mental — with them. but that requires extraordinary levels of energy. i'm just thinking of perhaps of your most famous performance work of all, the artist is present, which went around the world but began at the museum of modern art in new york city and literally thousands of people took to a chair right opposite you and you required them to stare deep into your eyes and you would stare right back and you did that day after day after day. what kind of stamina and energy does that take? almost three months and 716.5 hours — and every single minute i felt in my body. you know, i — i think that was kind of supernatural because looking back, i don't even believe i made this work because every day
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was so painful and so difficult that i could think it was the last day. and i remember when i suggested this performance to the curator who curate my show in moma, klaus biesenbach, he said to me "you want to do this in your work, when nobody have time? the chair will be always empty. i don't know why you want to do that." and i said i didn't care if it will be empty or not. i will be there and see what happened. and really, miracle happen. what is it about you and pain, because so many of your most famous works and experiences have involved extreme experience and very painful experience. you know, the human being is always afraid of three things — suffering, pain and the depravity of his life. and to me as a performance artist, i stage these difficulties in the front of the public and i go through them in my personal way. and i want to be a mirror to the public. if i can do this,
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they can do it too. and then you come on the other side, free of the pain and free from the fear, and this is a really incredible, actual, feeling, because we have... crosstalk. ..we have ability, all of us, to do that. right, but isn't there a danger when you push it to extremes — as i guess you might agree with me you do — that the audience is more taken with the sort of the sensation and the drama of it than the deeper meaning — i'm thinking, for example, in your rhythm series which you did, you know, when you were pretty young — i believe you started the rhythm series in your later 20s — you put your body through enormous stresses. i think in one of that series, you sort of put your body inside a star and then you set the thing on fire and at one point, you passed out and a doctor had to leap from the audience and save you. i mean, you were kind of close to death. you know, is that art is thatjust high drama? you know, it's not high drama. why don't we look in all
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civilisations and old all rituals of the countries — like aboriginals from australia or shamans from brazil and indonesia — who actually go through extremes with their body in ceremonies for the same reason — to get actually to another altered state of consciousness. so this is not any kind of, you know, need to shock the people. it is about really freeing yourself of fears that we all have. marina, what do you make of us human beings who come to look at you and immerse ourselves in yourwork, and i'm thinking again of one of your rhythm series — i think it was your rhythm series — where you actually — you placed yourself in a space and you placed nearby objects, more than 70 objects, including a gun, a bullet, a knife and other instruments that could really hurt you, and you invited the public to do whatever they wanted with those instruments on your body, and some of them did some pretty terrifying things. what did you make of the public at that moment?
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yeah, but you have to see circumstances. this was early �*70s, i was 2a years old and i was fed up with the relation to the public, to the performance art, thinking this is an, you know, no mainstream art, this kind of performance art was ridiculed by the large criticism, and also the public. and i wanted to do something really radical. if i'm there and all objects you can use on me and i'm taking all responsibility, what is going to happen? and i remember i had done this performance only once and on the end of this exercise, i knew the public can kill you. it's not me who's going to kill myself because i don't want to, it's the public who can kill you. and then 25 years later, i made a difference performance, artist is present, which were different rules — that you can sit in the front of me as long as you want, stare into my eyes and just be there in the present. and then, miracle happened — the public will wait for hours and hours to come in to sit in the front of me.
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they knew they were photographed, they are, you know, they are filmed, they are watched by the other audience and plus, you know, observed by me. there was nowhere to go, except into themselves. and they went into themselves. they start crying and the emotions came up and it was highly emotional work and we had 850,000 people come in and actually experiencing that. i'm interested in this emotional level, the intensity of it in your work, because it seems to me it is notjust about what we usually talk about, that is the audience being transformed by a piece of art, it seems to me you also get transformed by your art, because you are a participant in it. and just going back to the one where you put these objects in front and invited people to use them on your body, did you emerge transformed in the sense that perhaps, it gave you a very, very bleak view of human nature because, frankly, some people had pretty much abused and tortured you.
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you know, first of all, every performance brings me to a new experience and every performance is an important lecture in my life, a new step for the next piece. and you know, it's transformative. i really think that the most important, you know, invention in my life is a long duration of performance work. when i performed the artist is present, you know, before that i walked the great wall of china for three months, i make house with ocean view 12 hours — 12 days without eating, and the performance in moma was three months, so when i stood up from the chair, i was not the same anymore. the transformation is enormous but transformation is both ways — the transformation of the public and the performer doing it, and actually two of us, public and me, create the work together and we can't exist without each other. let me take you back a little bit in your life because your background is fascinating and again, i see connections with your fascination with pain in your childhood because
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you've written about your childhood and it clearly was very troubled and your relationship with your parents — who were both members of the partisan fighting force, fighting the nazis in world war ii, were then members of the socialist elite in tito�*s yugoslavia — your relationship with them, particularly with your mum, it was very difficult and it was full of pain, wasn't it? yeah, it was really like you were in the military service. i mean, my mother will wake up in the — me in the middle of the night if my bed was too messy when i sleep, and i have to make the bed and go back to sleep. so now, when i go to the hotels, you know, people don't even know i was there because ijust open the bed, sleep and close the bed — it looks untouched! i am really well—trained! chuckles. well, you are either well—trained or you're really traumatised. and sometimes when i read your memoirs, and also when i look at your work, i wonder if you are
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a traumatised person. but you know, it's so interesting that everybody wanted to, my work, put this point of view of being traumatised, being, you know, the kind of abusive childhood on that. every — all of these things, it was — served a purpose, to make my work as i am doing now. because to make this kind of performance work, you need extreme willpower, which i got from my parents. you need extreme dedication and you need motivation why you are doing this, and the only reason why i'm doing this is through my work to really try to lift the human spirit so all of these things, are not — it's not the most shocking, it's about detransformation. and again, i don't want to sound like a pop to sound like a cod psychologist but... but you do! you do! both chuckle. well, i do! all right, let's be honest — i'm gonna be the cod psychologist. your mum gave you very little physical affection — i think she barely ever kissed you — and you do crave to be at the centre of attention
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and to be loved, i guess. is that part of it? you know, we associate that with performers and you are a performance artist. but you cannot make me guilty for that! i think this is such — such a normal human actual need and, you know, i succeed to be loved by my public and also also by my students which i also — in the institute which i — which we run, which is the marina abramovic institute, my — which we teach young performance artists. so you know, i have this ocean of love which is wonderful and so, i don't miss this mother love. i missed it when i was young. when i asked why she never kissed me, when i was a0 years old, she was so surprised by the question. she said, "i never thought to think about it. i don't want to spoil you." one thing really, she did not spoil me, that's for sure. you were raised notjust by your parents, of course, but you were raised by a sort of socialist collective ideology as well and i just wonder whether your
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determination as a young woman in your 20s to push artistic boundaries, to use your own body and even your naked body — which scandalised belgrade, i think, at the time — was it part of a rebellion against the sort of conformity demanded by tito�*s socialism? yeah, it was absolutely against the system. i was not an easy child, i was a really black sheep in that country, and one more important part from my background is my grandmother, who was highly spiritual, and i spent my early childhood, you know, six years old, with her. so my own background is a strange mix between communism, altruism and deep religion, so that makes me now tibetan buddhist — what a mix! hmm. i, in my introduction, suggested that you have merged life and art, that actually, the two concepts were indistinguishable in your
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entire sort of existence. so let's get back to your art and your life together, because i'm thinking now of your relationships — the really intimate, personal relationships in your life, particularly perhaps a central one with the german artist ulay, where he and you merged your personal intimate lives and your professional artistic performances to an extent that's almost unimaginable to other people. do you think it, to be honest, screwed up your relationship with him? yes, absolutely! laughs. that's pretty true! because, you know, at the beginning, it was incredible, it was a dream relationship. we met on our birthday — we discovered that we are same day born — and the relation lasted for — you know, absolutely the most wonderful relationship with working and living together in just a simple car, travelling like modern nomads around the world for nine years. and then the last three years, because there —
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we split, you know, after 12 years at the great wall of china, it was really a nightmare because in a way... let me stop you, marina, because i really do want to explore this great wall of china performance — if i can put it that way — because it's unlike any other art piece i've ever heard. you and he, as i understand it, planned to walk from the opposite ends of the great wall of china — which is obviously some i200km each of walking — meet in the middle and then marry. but by the time you actually did it, you are not going to marry because you decided you were going to part forever. no, first of all, it's 2,500 each — 5,000 in total — and we took three years to get permission of china, china was not an open country at that time, and it took forever. and then finally, the chinese say yes to us, our relationship was in the end. and we never wanted to give up anything, so we said, "ok, instead of walking the chinese
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wall — where we actually want to walk opposite ends and get married", we decided to walk opposite ends, meet in the middle and actually say goodbye. that was a really big, painful goodbye because at that time, i was a0 years old, i lost the man i loved and i lost my work because work was always together for 12 years. so this was a very difficult time in my life to rebuild myself again. let me dig even deeper into this merging of life and art because you have written very honestly about the decisions you made not to have children and you suggested that you felt as a creative, an artist woman, that having children would constrict your ability to be as creative and free as you wanted to be. you had abortions... looking back on it, do you think you were right, that it would have completely affected your artistic life? i absolutely think i was right. i never really wanted children, never really felt a need for children, never felt the biological clock was ticking like other women.
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i knew that the idea of my work is somewhere else and not in the family. and i am never actually sorry for that. i have just been looking into the life of louise bourgeois, a woman who had children and had to wait for her husband to die when she was 60 for her to make a major career. i just wanted to work. i think at one point, you wrote a manifesto for artistic life and it was very interesting because you suggested that the key to it was solitude, the key was not to tie yourself to a partner, not to get married. and yet you have been married, i think twice, and you've had all sorts of relationships. you have kind of broken your own rules from time to time. what can i do? nobody�*s perfect. laughs. and plus, my marriage, most marriages are very short,
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if one was the marriage that actually in belgrade, i wanted to marry my colleague from the art academy and the main reason was that actually i could have the freedom from my mother to come home after 10pm in the evening and then we divorced after i met ulay. with ulay, i never married and married the italian artist paulo canavare and that lasted two years. so not too long. i wanted to ask you about belgrade because clearly, we have discussed your background and it is hugely important to who you are and yet it intrigues me that in belgrade, in what we now call serbia but the former yugoslavia more generally, you perhaps aren't as lauded or as popular as people might think because you are frankly, probably the most famous artists to come out of serbia but inside belgrade, as i understand it, people are a bit ambivalent about you, maybe because the way you have
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spoken about socialism and your upbringing. do you resent that? you know, it is, 43 years, i never make a show in belgrade and finally the government invited me after 43 years to make my show in the new renovated museum of modern art which had been closed for more than 10 years. this was a huge thing. and my generation really doesn't like me. my generation who are really classic painters and really traditional artists could not believe that i could sit in a museum, on the chair, doing nothing and have all of this publicity. they couldn't get that into their head and this will never change. and then i had record visitors in the museum, more than 54—55,000 for the museum is a very big number in belgrade. and most of the time, 80% was very young audience. and when i was doing the lecture, the lecture auditorium had a few hundred people, they have to change locations to outside of the museum. outside of the museum, i had 6,500 people, all young, who wanted to listen to me.
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this was a kind of art woodstock. this was incredible for me, incredibly emotional. and i knew that i have lots of admiration in the young generation. my generation, i don't think they will ever accept me. you have won many prizes in your life, from venice and many other artistic centres, you have been lauded. but you have pretty serious critics and some of them say in recent years you have been seduced by celebrity and the spotlight of the media and you have done your performances with big stars like jay z and lady gaga. you got her involved. and maybe, some see you as a sell—out? laughs. ijust had a conversation a few years ago with debbie harry and she said, you know, when i had no money, we are literally on the street and couldn't pay electricity bill, we were making
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the music and then we started being recognised and we started having the money and even made the better music than before because we had a full stomach. and then they told us we have sold out. so i think the public has this incredible nostalgic view of celebrities and who they are going to help. until my moma show, my work was not largely publicised and known in the public. and then, after performing at moma, i did my work as always, nothing really changed. but people put on you, they project on you that idea of the stars and then they criticise you for it. it is just the kind of side effect of how the public perceives things. they like to put you up, they like to destroy you. but the only thing i have to do is continue doing what i am doing. let me ask you about legacy. i understand you're still prolific and still want to work for many years to come.
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but i'm thinking about your legacy. do you... ..i don't know, have a problem with fact that in other art forms, the legacy is obvious to see, it sits in the canvas, the famous painting or the celluloid film, or the words on the page of a book. it is very easy to see what an artist's legacy is but so much of your work is in that moment of connection between you and living human beings as you both sit on chair. it can never be re—created and therefore you don't leave behind the same sort of artistic legacy as other creatives? i don't leave it the traditional way but many other ways. first of all, historically pieces of art can be re—performed. we have an institute here where we learn and teach people how to reperform my work, notjust mine but others as well. i am interested in preserving that art form in the first place.
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and secondly, there are all interesting things with technology. there is a mixed reality which actually i just created a piece called the life and filmed it with 36 film cameras and created an image of myself which actually can have life inside and it can really live forever. so through technology you can create, in a material way, immortality. i want to end if i may, marina, by quoting you back at yourself because it was not so long ago that you said, "there are three marinas. there is a warrior marina who can endure any physical pain, spiritual marina who can endure any amount of stillness, and then there is bs marina who adores celebrity". so which is the most important marina, which one do you want the world to remember and focus on? the whole point of discovering the three marinas is to give them equal space to live
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inside me because normally, the public like to see the heroic one and that is the easiest to project to the public. then the public discovers later on when a person dies, the other ones and they are disappointed. in my case, i discovered all three lived very harmoniously within myself and all have the same space. and that is the only important thing to show the public because in that way we can connect with our vulnerability to that vulnerability of the public, and it is why you have such a connection to them because they have also, all of us, have many, many, many marinas in themselves. so you share vulnerability, yours and theres? by exposing that, you really deeply connect. marina abramovic, it has been a great pleasure having you on hardtalk. thank you very much. thank you so much.
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hello. monday brought us the warmest day of the year so far with temperatures in the southeast at 20.1; celsius, and things will get even warmer over the next few days. so, a lot of warm, sunny weather but not everywhere. some wet weather holding on across the northwest of scotland, really quite persistent rain there. and then later this week, from around about thursday onwards, things are turning colderfor all of us with the return of some overnight frosts as well. for the here and now, here's the weather front that's slow moving across the northwest of scotland. that's producing fuurther outbreaks of rain, we could see some localised flooding for northern and western parts of the highlands, also for the westin isles and the northern isles too. elsewhere, a dry story, quite cloudy for parts of northern ireland, southern scotland and the far north of england.
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but the could should thin and break up through the day, long spells of warm sunshine further south and light winds too. temperatures up to around 23 degrees across the southeast of england. but above 20 for england and wales, up in the high teens for scotland and for northern ireland. through this evening and overnight, we are going to see that rain persisting again across the western half of scotland, but it will start to edge its way gradually a little bit further south. temperatures first thing wednesday morning won't be quite as chilly as first thing tuesday morning, so typically between 7—9 celsius. now as we head through tuesday night into wednesday, there is the weather front, which slowly during wednesday morning will start to filter its way a little bit further south. so the rain's continuing across parts of scotland through the day, very slowly, some of it nudging across northern ireland. really england and wales staying dry once again on wednesday, and with those clear, blue skies, it will be another warm day. very warm in fact for march, between 19—23 celsius once again, but things starting to turn a little bit cooler across scotland
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and northern ireland too. ii or 12 celsius here and single figures across the northern half of scotland. that's down to the fact that this weather front is introducing colder air from the north, towards the end of the week, as that slips its way down towards the south, then the blue colours are going to return to the map. so this colder air moving in from an arctic direction, and that is going to feel very different as we head towards good friday and into the easter weekend as well. so certainly turning colder later this week, some wintry showers possible, but the next few days looking warm for many of us. bye— bye.
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this is bbc news — my name's mike embley — with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. the death that shook the world: a police officer who knelt on george floyd's neck stands trial in minneapolis. both sides lay out their cases. you'll hear it and you'll see at the same time while he is crying out mr chauvin never moves. the knee remains on his neck. sunglasses remain undisturbed on his head and itjust goes on. derek chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do. the use of force is not attractive, but it is a necessary component of policing. brazil's president, reshuffles his cabinet — as latin america's largest country descends into further covid—induced chaos. beijing is accuses of using questionable tactics in its attempt to control what's said about china's role in the pandemic.


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