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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  March 30, 2021 4:30am-5:00am BST

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out their opening arguments in the trial of a white former police officer accused of killing george floyd. the prosecutor replayed the full nine—minute video showing the former officer kneeling on mr floyd's neck as he struggled to breathe. brazil's president, jair bolsonaro, has been forced into a major reshuffle of his cabinet, following the resignations of his foreign and defence ministers. the president's popularity has declined sharply, as brazil suffers a second deadly wave of the pandemic — and major delays in its vaccination programme. ships have started sailing through the suez canal, after the giant container vessel that blocked the channel for almost a week — was freed. tug boats that took part in the rescue, honked their horns in celebration. egyptian officials say the backlog will be cleared in around three days. now on bbc news, it's hardtalk
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with stephen sackur. 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 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? marina abramovic in upstate new york, welcome to hardtalk.
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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 with a performance background have a different approach to the public. some of them actually don't need the public. they go into a kind of zone and doesn't matter how many people are watching them, but i'm not one of them. for me, every single person in the audience, every single person in there,
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is important and matters. and i have to keep a relationship emotional, physical, mental with them. but that requires extraordinary levels of energy. i'm just thinking of perhaps 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 and a half hours — and every single minute, i felt in my body. you know, i think that was kind of supernatural because looking back, i don't even believe i made this work because every day was so painful and so
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difficult that i could think it was the last day. and i remember when i suggested this performance to the curator who created my show, 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 empty. i will be there and see what happens. and really, miracle happened. 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 polarity 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, they can do, too.
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and then you come on the other side free of the pain and free from the fear. and this is a really incredible, actually, feeling we have. 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 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 or is that just high drama? you know, it's not high drama. why we don't look in old civilisations, in old,
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you know, rituals of the countries like aborigines from australia or shamans from brazil and indonesia who actually goes through extremes through the body in the ceremonies? for the same reason to get actually to another altered state of consciousness. so this is not really any kind of, you know, need to shock the people. it's about really free 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 your work? 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 �*705. i was 2a years old, and i was fed up with the relation to the public, to the performance art thinking this isn't, you know, not mainstream art. this kind of performance art was ridiculed by the large critics�* 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's going to happen? and i remember that i'd 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 different performance, artist 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 wait for hours and hours and come in to sit in the front of me, knew
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they are photographed. you know, they're filmed. they're watched by the other audience, and plus, observed by me, there was nowhere to go except into themselves. and when they then went into themselves, they start crying and the emotions come up, and it was highly emotional work. and we have 850,000 people coming and actually experienced that. i'm interested in this emotional level, the intensity of it in your work, because it seems to me it isn't just about, you know, what we usually talk about — that is the audience being transformed by a piece of art. seems to me you also get transformed by your art because you're 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 bring me to new experience and every performance is 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 event in my life, it is long duration of performance work. when i perform artist is present, you know, before that, i walk great wall of china for three months. i make house with ocean view 12 hours, 12 days without eating and performance in moma was three months. so when i stood up from the chair, i was not the same any more. this transformation is enormous, but the transformation is both ways — transformation of the public, and the performer doing it. and actually two of us, public and me, created the work together. and we can't exist without each other. let me take you back a little bit in your life cos your background is fascinating. and again, i see connections with your fascination with pain in your childhood cos you've written about your childhood and it clearly
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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 in the military service. i mean, my mother would wake up 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 opened the bed, sleep, and close the bed. they look untouched. i'm really well—trained! well, you're 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 a traumatised person. but, you know, it's so interesting that everybody
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wanted to, on my work, put this this point of view of being traumatised, being... you know, the kind of abusive childhood, all that. all of these things, it 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're doing this. and the only reason, what i'm doing is, through my work, to really try to lift human spirit. so all of these things are not... it's not the most shocking. it's about deep transformation. and again, i don't want to sound like a cod psychologist, but you... what do you do, you do. well, i do. all right, let's be honest. i'm going to 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 and to be loved, i guess. is that part of it?
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you know, we associate that with performers and you are a performance artist. but you can't make me guilty for that. i think this is such a normal, human, actually, need and, you know, i succeed to be loved with my public and also by my students, which i was in the institute which we run, which is the marina abramovic institute, which we teach young performance artists. so, you know, i... i have this ocean of love, which is wonderful. and so i don't miss this mother love. i miss when i was young, when i ask her why she never kissed me, when i was a0 years old, she was so surprised by the question. she said, "but i was never taught to think about. i don't want to spoil you." one thing — she really didn't spoil me. that's for sure. you were you were raised not just by your parents, of course, but you were raised by a sort of socialist collective ideology as well. and i just wonder whether your determination as a young woman
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in your 20s to push artistic boundaries, to use your own body, 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 of my background is my grandmother, who was highly spiritual. and i spent my early childhood till i was six years old with her, so my background is a strange mix between communism, atheism, and deep, deep religion, so that makes me now tibetan buddhist. what a mix. i, in my introduction, suggested that you had merged life and art, that actually the two concepts were indistinguishable in your entire sort of existence,
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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 you and he 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. that's pretty true because, you know, in the beginning, it was incredible. it was a dream relationship. we met on our birthday. we discovered we are same day born. and the relationship last for... absolutely the most wonderful relationship with working and living together in the just simple car, travelling like modern nomads around the world nine years. and then the last three years, because we split, you know, after 12 years on the great wall of china,
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it was really a nightmare... can i 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 of. you and he, as i understand it, planned to walk from the opposite ends of the great wall of china, which is obviously some 1,200 kilometres each of walking, meet in the middle and then marry. but by the time you actually did it, you're weren't 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 open country that time, and it took forever. and then finally when the chinese say yes to us, our relation was on the end, and we never want to give up anything. so we said, ok, instead of, you know, walking the chinese wall, what we actually want to walk opposite ends
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and marry, we decide to walk opposite ends, meet in the middle, and actually say goodbye. and that was a really big, painful goodbye, because in that time, i was a0 years old. i lost the man i love 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've 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 want to have children. i neverfelt a need for children. i never felt biological clock
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is ticking like other women. i knew that my, you know, the idea of my work is somewhere else and not in family. and i never actually was sorry for that. you know, iwasjust looking into the life of louise bourgeois. louise bourgeois had the children. to wait until her husband died when she was 60 in order to make the major career. i just wanted to work. i think at one point you wrote a sort of 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, so you've kind of broken your own rules from time to time. what i can do? nobody�*s perfect! and plus, you know, my marriage, the one... most marriages are very short. if one was... you know, the marriage that actually, in belgrade,
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i want to marry my colleague from art academy. and the main reason was that actually, i could have the freedom for my mother to come home after ten in the evening. and then with divorce, after i met ulay, with ulay, i never married. then i married the italian artist paolo canevari. and that marriage lasted two years, so not too long. i wanted to ask you about belgrade, because clearly we've discussed your background and it's 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 and as popular as people might think because you're frankly probably the most famous artist to come out of serbia. and yet inside belgrade, as i understand it, people are a bit ambivalent about you, maybe because of the way you've spoken about socialism and about your upbringing. do you resent that?
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you know, it's. .. in 43 years, i never make a show in belgrade. and finally the government invite me, you know, after 43 years, to make my show in the new renovated museum, modern art, which had been closed for more than ten years. and this was a huge thing. and my generation really don't like me. my generation, who are really, you know, classic painters and really the traditional artists, could not believe that i can sit in a museum on the chair doing nothing and have all this publicity. that can't go into their head. so this will never change. and then i had record visitors to the museum. it's more than, you know, 54,000, 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, you know, the lecture and tutorial, 300 people, they had to change location to outside of the museum, and outside of the museum, i had 6,500 people, all young, want to listen to me.
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this was for me, like a kind of, you know, art woodstock. it was incredibly emotional. and i knew that i have lots lot of admiration from the young generation. my generation, i don't think they will ever accept me. you've won many prizes in your life from venice and many other artistic centres. you've been lauded, but also you have got some pretty fierce critics. and some of them say that in recent years, particularly, you've become seduced by celebrity and the spotlight of the media and you've 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. ijust had a conversation a few years ago with debbie harry and she said, "you know, when i didn't have no money, we were literally on the street with even can't pay electricity bill. you know, we were making the music. then we start being recognised
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and we finally started with the money and we even make the better music than before because we had the full stomachs and then they told us we are sold out." so i think the public have this incredible nostalgic relation of the poor artists who they're going to help. you know, till moma show, you know, my work was not largely publicised and really knowing in the large public. and then, you know, and after the performance, after the moma, i do my work as always. nothing really changed. but people put you on that... they project on you that idea of the stars and jet sets and so on and then they criticise you for it. in my... it's just the kind of side effect of how the public perceive things. they like to put you up and they like to destroy you. but the only thing that i have to do is to continue with what i'm doing. let me ask you about legacy. i understand you're still prolific and you still want to work for many years to come. but i'm thinking
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about your legacy. do you, i don't know, have a problem with the 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's very easy to see what an artist's legacy is, but so much of your work is it in that moment of connection between you and a living human being as you both sit on a chair and it can never be recreated and therefore you don't leave behind the same sort of artistic legacy as other creatives. i don't leave in the traditional way, but i leave actually many other ways. first of all, i inventory performance, that the historical pieces of art can be re—performed. we have an institute of abramovic marina, which actually we learn and teach people how to re—perform notjust my work, but also the work of other artists, because i'm interested in preservation of that art form in the first place.
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and then second thing, there is all interesting things with technology. there is a mixed reality, you know, which actually ijust created a piece called a life, where i am filled with 36 film cameras and create the image of myself that actually can have life inside and that can really live forever. so you... actually 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 not so long ago you said, "there are three marinas. there's warrior marina, who can endure any pain, there's spiritual marina, who can endure any amount of stillness, and there's..." well, i'm going to paraphrase — "bs marina, who adores celebrity." so which is the most important marina? which one do you want the world to remember and to focus on? the whole point of this discovering three marinas is to give them equal space to live inside of me, because normally, you know, the public always like to see the heroic one, and that's easy
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to project to the public. and then the public discover later on when the person dies, you know, the other ones and they are disappointed. but in my case, i discovered that all three live very harmoniously in myself and they all have the same space. and that's the only important, you know, to show the public, because in that way, we can connect with your own vulnerability to the vulnerability of the public. and this is why i have such a connection with them, because they have also, all of us, they have many, many, many marinas in themselves. so you share, you share vulnerability, yours and theirs? 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 20.4 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 thursday onwards, things are turning colderfor all of us with the return of some overnight frosts as well. for now, here's the weather front that's slow moving across the northwest of scotland. that's producing further outbreaks of rain, we could see some localised flooding for northern and western parts of the highlands, also for the western isles and the northern isles. elsewhere, a dry story, quite cloudy for parts of northern ireland, southern scotland and the far north of england. but the cloud should thin and break up through the day, long spells of warm sunshine
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further south and light winds. temperatures up to 23 degrees across the southeast of england. but above 20 for england and wales, up in the high teens for scotland and northern ireland. through this evening and overnight, we 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 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 degreese once again, but things starting to turn a little bit cooler across scotland and northern ireland too.
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ii or 12 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, 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, i'm sally bundock with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. in minneapolis, new footage of geroge floyd's death is shown to the jury, in the trial of the white police officer — charged with his murder. brazil's president, reshuffles his cabinet — as latin america's largest country descends into further covid—induced chaos. coranavirus probably originated in bats, before infecting humans — the conclusion of a long awaited world health organisation report seen by the bbc. and — it's adios sergio aguero — manchester city's record goal scorer is to leave the club at the end of the season.


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