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

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hello, you're watching bbc news with me, ben brown. president biden has held a rally in georgia told mark is 100 day in office. he wanted the wealthy and corporations to pay their share of tax. he's the first to urge americans to support... alexia navalny was launched a scathing attack on president putin, accusing him of stealing the country's riches. it's the first time he's been seen since his hunger strike. noel clarke has been suspended. it follows counsel sexual harassment cement which he decides —— denies.
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0n on bbc 0n bbc news, it's time for hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur. today, i'm in the white cube gallery in london as cultural life stocks could reestablish itself. after many months of lockdown. my guests are the artistic duo gilbert and george. forfive decades, they've been producing controversial work and this exhibition, they call new normal pictures. but is there anything normal about gilbert and george?
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we're sitting in this gallery space. this is your latest exhibition. it's called new normal pictures. is this your response to what the world has been through in the last year, thatis been through in the last year, that is the covid pandemic and lockdown?— lockdown? no, not at all. it predates— lockdown? no, not at all. it predates the _ lockdown? no, not at all. it predates the pandemic. - lockdown? no, not at all. it predates the pandemic. we | predates the pandemic. we created the pictures before the pandemic. we were so interested that people would use the term. and we wanted to find an english word for that. normalfor find an english word for that. normal for us... find an english word for that. normalfor us... it find an english word for that. normal for us. . ._ find an english word for that. normal for us... it was before the pandemic. _ normal for us... it was before the pandemic. nonetheless, l normal for us... it was before i the pandemic. nonetheless, you do a lot of— the pandemic. nonetheless, you do a lot of work _ the pandemic. nonetheless, you do a lot of work on _ the pandemic. nonetheless, you do a lot of work on your - do a lot of work on your pictures to bring them to this
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point. pictures to bring them to this oint. . �* , point. once we didn't finish the design" _ it's very interesting you say that, because i've read a lot about the way you live your life and the way you work, and itjust seems to me that your particular lifestyle probably wasn't that much impacted by everything that we've seen, with the isolation of lockdown, because you live a fairly isolated life anyway, don't you? yes. i mean, i think we were very conscious the whole time of the enormous human suffering, we can't not think but otherwise, i didn't
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think we were affected. not being allowed to go to restaurants, that was quite a shock. kissing waiters. no, we haven't kissed a waiter since christmas. extraordinary. they laugh but we all brought takeaway. we have bread, ham and cheese in the fridge. we had to empty ourfridge, which normally only has champagne in it, and put food in there. you're describing a life, you know, which has champagne in the fridge, where you eat out a lot because you don't like to cook, and yet the subject matter that you've chosen to focus on in this exhibition, the new normal, is... many ways, it's quite dystopian. you know, what we see are images of your neighbourhood in london which focus on trash, refuse, the paraphernalia of drug use. and you two, as ever, appear in every picture. and you look, frankly, weary, beaten, deeply subdued by experience. is that the way you're feeling? it was quite...| mean, extraordinary, because we managed to create a world for ourselves now that we are the centre of our art.
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that was very important. and that, from the very beginning, was a concept... in 1968—69, we made us centre of our art. like some artist do apples, some artists do a sky, we made ourselves. and then it became a journey through our life that was extraordinary. the journey — what are we confronting every single day? and that became our subject. and this subject, when we open our door in fullness... ..there we are. what do you call it? the drug bags are there, the newspaper there. all the beds are there. we don't have to create anything. to look for inspiration. inspiration of our world is there. but what does it say about you two? i'm looking over your shoulders to this particular picture behind you. you've titled it priority seat, and there you both are in your tweed suits, and you're at a bus stop and you're both slumped
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as though you've completely run out of energy. you look sort of befuddled and baffled. i come back to this point — is that the way you are feeling today? you'd make a very good art critic. i love the description of it. it's marvellous. but is that the way you are feeling? we are involved in thought transference. so, like a writer does words that will put thoughts and feelings into the readers, so these images have to transfer thought, things that you can't put into word, exactly, you can put in pictures. they're very delicate examples of human existence, things we all know. as we step out of the front door of number 12, fornier street, we're stepping not out into the east end of london, we're stepping into a french street built on a roman cemetery, which, when we were students, was the yiddish—speaking district. we are five minutes from the dissidents cemetery. we have a mosque at one end, an anglican church at the other end, the opium den that
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oscar wilde went to was on brick lane, thejewish... all on brick lane. mm. extraordinary world. i want to come back to what you said, gilbert, about the journey. and you always place yourselves in the centre of this journey you've made, in the course of 50 years of creativity. if we were looking at some of your earlier works, on bbc television, we wouldn't be able to show some of the words and images, because over the years, and people remember you for it, in the �*70s, �*80s, you focused a lot on taboo subjects. you know, i'm thinking of the human body — all of it, all of the orifices, all of the bodily fluids, of the faeces, the urine, the genitalia — all in different ways were taboos that you put front and centre in your artwork. have you stopped doing that? no, i think all those pictures still exist. they travel the world.
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we have a show on in frankfurt at the moment with pictures from a retrospective. we only want to de—shock, not to shock. sorry, you wanted to what? to de—shock. what do you mean by...? to take the shock element out of it, to make it a normality that we can live with. not that anyone has to throw up the arms in fear and... just to get normal about things, yes. the germans would say, "why do you want to be provocative?" we never wanted to be provocative... because that would be very superficial. that'd be shallow. if you were just simply trying to evoke a shock... of course... ..that really wouldn't get us very far. we never, we never wanted to do that. we like to provoke thought, but not to be provocative — a very subtle difference. so, when you did that exhibition, which focused on your own faeces... we did two groups of pictures... ..what was the deeper meaning? we had enormous, enormous support for these pictures. and we still have. imean... there's nothing in our pictures which is not also in the holy bible. it's not so shocking. yes. let's call it normal.
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we know that we are... we have bum holes. we have that. everybody has that. and everything is taboo because of religion. but do you think...? because of religion. it's only because of the wicked romans. if not, we'd be fine. yeah, but let's leave the romans aside. i'm just really interested in the journey you two have made over 50 years. do you think things that were deeply taboo and did get you, sort of, you know, a lot of publicity and a lot of notoriety in the 1980s, have they become much more sort of acceptable, that society, notjust you two have changed but society has changed? yes. what about sex? we knew that, 1967, when we were baby artists walking out of st martin's school of art, london was an entirely different place. england was an entirely different place. the world was a different place. and what has happened in those 50, nearly 60 years, we've been a small part of playing the change.
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mm. we're very proud of that. do you like the london, the england, the uk of today, better than that place that you began making art? 0h, we've always loved london. and of course... it's all the same evolution, we call it. one big walk that we are doing. and everybody, when we first started out, they all called us queers in all the art world. even the art critic — "oh, the silly queers' art." it was most extraordinary, because there was... ..the morality of that day was totally different, and we want to change the morality, that you can look at a naked person. mm. in the renaissance, they were able to look at naked people who were doing whatever they want. why not today? and it is changing in an extraordinary way. and we were able to confront, even, like, the dirty worth, no? that word, dirty, is at the heart of a lot of what you've done,
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because dirty, you know, doesn'tjust mean the literal sense of being soiled with dirt. unacceptable. in the english language, it carries this much deeper meaning, tied to sexuality, to bodily functions, where there are certain things we don't want to think about or be confronted with. but they all love it. all young people all love it. yes, we have a huge community now, not of tramps damaged by the first and second world war, they've all gone. we had thousands and thousands of tramps as students. and now we have a small community of people involved in drugs. and we were walking down whitechapel. .. even in your neighbourhood of london? yes. essentially, homeless people. yes, homeless... drug addicts. many drug addicts. there are several hostels. that's the new community, really. and we have a certain following amongst those people. they never went to an exhibition, they never saw a catalogue, but they understand that we have something of life for them. one of the things, profound things, that's changed in the course of your lifetimes is that when you were growing
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up and entering adulthood, homosexuality was still criminalised in the uk. oh, yes. �*67 was decriminalisation. yeah. that's chimed exactly with our time leaving st martin's. i mean, we thought we were living in the centre of the universe in �*67. so, you couldn't be public about the fact you are not just an artistic duo, you were life partners. we didn't think of it in those terms. we don't really believe so much in the male and female or the gay or the straight. we think of a more general, more human.... it was more sexy, yeah. but it was an amazing battle. it was an amazing battle from the art critics, nonstop attacking us for being two men together. it was all over the world and was extraordinary. but we won. we won. you think there was a deep—seated prejudice inside the art world? which you would think, frankly, has a reputation for being more open—minded, more liberal... a lot of closet
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gay—bashers, mostly. famous art critics, like the most famous newspaper in england, or... especially on the left. more on the left. but we always remember, we have a favourite singer called fred barnes, who died before the second world war, and he was an extraordinary outsider. and he wrote a marvellous song. i'll read you the words. it's so beautiful, still. you can imagine this is before the second world war. "it's a queer, queer world we live in "and dame nature plays a funny game "some get all the sunshine others get the shame "i don't know why, but since i was born "the scapegrace i seem to be ever since i was a little boy at school a name has stuck to me yes, i'm the black, black sheep of the family everybody runs me down people shake their heads at me and say i'm a disgrace to society but i'll try my luck in the colonies "there, i'll rise or fall "and when i come back that sheep that was black "will perhaps be the whitest of them all."
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all we think that's very, very beautiful, and it means a lot to us as a song. he was thought to be the most handsome man in britain for 20 years. he was known in australia and north america. it's a marvellous song. it's fascinating to hear that. it's an extraordinary song. he wouldn't have been able to imagine what is the reality for you — that you two, of course, today, can marry. we are. we had a civil partnership, yeah. yeah. of course. i mean, fred barnes�* father gassed himself at the horror of his son, and fred barnes gassed himself at the end of his life. let me ask you this... you present yourself to the world as a unit. you know, you are an artistic single entity. 0ne artist. 0ne. that's the way you see it. we always say "two people, one artist." well, you call yourselves living sculptures. yes. that was our invention, and it was the best invention. but, hang on, let me continue the thought. so, here you are. you are, let's face it,
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two individuals, but as far as you're concerned, you are one artist. how on earth does that work? are you telling me that over 50 years of productivity and creativity, you have never had a significant difference about the work you're doing? no, we didn't have it, because we realised we had to succeed. and everything... nothing matters except succeeding, and we do. we are not there yet, but we are doing it every single day. but you are not the same person. you must have differences of artistic vision. you're not clones of each other. we remember very well the early years of our career together. the most common comment in the press, in the media, was, "oh, it's very interesting, but of course it "won't last, two people." they never lasted. they've all been divorced 17 times, not us, right? yeah. and the artists — many, many are totally forgotten. but if i'm to take gilbert
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seriously, part of the reason you haven't divorced is that you simply can't afford it. you're right about that. george chuckles which makes me a little cynical, you know, you've got something going here which frankly, apart from anything else, as you've told me, many of the pictures we see around us have already sold, and i dare say sold for a great deal of money. you know, this is a business as well as a creative enterprise you're running. we need money, of course, but we created a living sculpture that is two people together... ..that we started in '68. that is our...centre part of art. we created this living sculpture and we are... ..walking through life and what we call confronting life in different ways. and that's our pictures — what we confront in our life is in our picture, so we have all the subjects. 0ur subject that are inside ourselves are part of universal thought. death... hope... life... fear... sex... money...
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race... religion... naked... human.. world... all the thoughts and feelings that lie inside everyone. and we are never run out of subjects, because they're... even getting old, it's an amazing subject... i know that all too well myself! but...i'm not sure you've really answered my question about how you actually always work together as a unit... ithink... ..because. .. we never ask the question when we make our pictures. ever. and it's also true that we buy a newspaper in the morning. we watch television to check on the enemy at six o'clock every day, and we know that, out there, there is a huge battle in every single aspect of human life, country to country, company to company, politician to pol... it's an enormous... sorry... what's this battle? the world is a huge battle, yeah? but who do you regard as combatants? no, i mean, countries are fighting countries and people... companies are fighting companies... like democracy... we didn't want to be like that. we didn't want to be fighting. democracy and totalitarian
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countries now, with the battle beyond belief. well, i want to get to more political questions in a minute, but...just let me finish with this personal stuff... we never ask that question, what goes, when we make our picture... but is one of you more the ideas person and the other the editor... ? oo—h—h! 0h? oh-h-h! it... it doesn't work like that. it doesn't. .. it doesn't work like that. but... remember, the world is divided into twosomes. it's the most common arrangement, even in the animal kingdom, twos. yeah, but as we've discussed... we never ask that question... ..they don't always stay together, whereas you two have. but we never ask that question. normally, thejournalists, they do argue a lot. they say, "ah, the great heterosexual question." and people laugh at me... we don't. and we. . .taught ourself. .. we don't argue... they talk over each other ..and we wouldn't tell you if we did. no, i don't suppose you would, but could either of you imagine making art on your own? no. just as a side project? certainly not. never.
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because we invented ourself together. we invented ourself. before that, we were silly art students, but we went there because we were not accepted in the beginning, that we created these two—people vision. but, i mean, i think a german magazine once asked you, "so, what happens to your art when one of you dies?" that's the great german question. yeah. only in... so, i mean, it's brutal, but it's serious. only in germany have they asked that. if you can only imagine making art together, if one of you is no longer capable, do you just... you quit? i think we stop. we did nearly... we did nearly 8,000 artworks. it's too early to be thinking about that anyway. is it? you said death is one of your subjects and, of course, we all, as we get older, think about it more... it's the same question you can ask any two people in the world. you wouldn't ask the taxi driver, "what are you going to do when your missus dies?" we just simply believe in the amazing power of culture, the world that we live in. we are safe and free. you're not safe and free in every country in the world.
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we are safe and free in london town, in melbourne and in ottawa, and other countries because of culture. it's not the church. they didn't arrange it. the politicians didn't arrange the permissive society or anything else. writers and thinkers and picture—makers and poets, composers, they did that. mm—hm. it seems to me... you're more indebted to those. we accepted it. we always said we were conservatives. and i liked that. small "c" conservatives? yeah. and you certainly... look at. . .the way you dress. i mean, you couldn't be trying to evoke a more, sort of, you know... normal... normal appearance... conservative image with the way you look. and yet, as we've discussed already in this conversation, the subject often deeply sexual. it's covering all of the taboos that we've discussed... you're sort of conservatives who then play, and have almost a joke at the expense... no, no playing. no playing. but...
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nojokes. but dressed up like that, it's more powerful. you can get away with anything. it that why you do it? this is your camouflage? no... you can...get a table in any restaurant in the world and we're hardly ever searched at airports. it's very good. very good. but we started out in 1968... mm—hm. ..because we were going to different galleries to sell ourselves, no? so we put on these suits at that time and then we call it the... what's it called? what... responsibility. the responsibility suits of our art. and that's the vision in 1969. i'm just wondering in the end whether... ..there is an element of play to what you do... no. whether we should take you seriously or not. if you want to be simple about that, it's even more simple. as lower—class people, we were brought up that, on important occasions, you dress properly and nicely. if you go to a wedding or a funeral or a christening or if you apply for a job
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or if you go for an interview, put on a suit and tie and do your hair nicely. for important occasions, yeah? and we believe that every single day of our life is important. and you call yourself a lower—class person... of course. ..but would it be fair to say that you have had a running battle with the art elite, the art establishment, because you think they don't give you the respect that you deserve? i mean, frankly, people like brian sewell and waldemarjanuszczak have dismissed your work with contempt as having no artistic value... we've had a lot of help from our enemies, that's true. but...i am interested in where this feeling of yours comes from, that you're outsiders and that you're against... that the whole of the art world is against you... we never said that. we have enormous support from the art world. good heavens. we're feted wherever we go. you didn't know that? here's a quote from you, "in the art world, we once "said we were thatcherites. "it was the worst
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thing we could say. "it was like saying that you're a nazi paedophile or something. "they will never forgive us for that," you said. "the art world is full of left—wingers who want "to be millionaires." that's true. that's still true as well. they all became millionaires. if you say you're conservative to the taxi driver or the waiter, it'sjust an opinion. it's only in the art world they throw up their arms in amazement. it's quite silly. it is interesting... after all, we... i mean, we were working—class people, starting out with nothing. it was an extraordinary journey that we did. and even that we managed to make an art that's completely different than any other art. and we... it's our vision. we create a new way of making picture for ourselves. and we created...what's called the journey that is lived in... ..confronted lived like conservative or left—wing or right—wing or sexuality or religion that we hate in some big way. we are trite. and then, we call it the... ..moral. ..
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what was it? moral dimension. the moral dimension that we create for ourselves, how to behave as a human being, moral dimension. that's quite interesting. over 50 years, you've sort of been in and out of fashion. you did have a major retrospective at the tate modern, the leading, sort of, modern art gallery in london. but i think i'm right in saying that pretty much all of the pictures they own of yours, they're now no longer displayed. yes. does it hurt... ? that's why we create our own space. because they are all aimed towards different agendas all the time. mm—hm. but the last two years, we did six museum shows. yourjourney clearly isn't over, but if i, again, to be brutal about it, you're both in your 70s now. but we like our public. we like our public. that's why we're doing it. after all, we started off with the message in 1968, '69. and we like that journey for the public. we want people in front of our art, we want them to be affected by it.
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we're confronted by a vision of the world and that's why we like making art so much. gilbert and george, it's been fascinating talking to you. thank you very much for being on hardtalk. thank you. very kind. you're very kind. hello. april will continue to try to make amends with a bit more rain before the month is done during friday in the form of showers that will continue into the first weekend of may. it will stay on the cool side with a risk of frost at night. and then for the bank holiday, look at this area of low pressure, a long way away,
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but it's coming for us on monday. until then, we find ourselves in the wake of low pressure. unstable air, meaning showers and the flow of air coming in from the northeast. cool direction temperatures, below average for the time of year. and another frost out there for many as we start the day friday morning. rather patchy in nature, more likely in the countryside than in town and city centres, but it will be chilly. there'll be plenty of sunshine, already a few showers running in towards the north sea coastal areas. but after the early sunshine elsewhere, some cloud is going to build, and the showers break—out more widely, some heavy, perhaps with hail and thunder. not everyone will catch them, though, and as for temperatures, it is quite cool, particularly along north sea coasts. many of us just in the range of 9—12 celsius. perhaps fewer showers in northern ireland compared with thursday, so, more in the way of dry, sunny weather. as ever, the showers, not everybody�*s going to catch them. they will tend to fade away after dark overnight and into saturday morning. and with another chilly start with another patchy frost,
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a lot of sunshine to start the weekend, to start saturday. but, wait for it, it all happens again. the shower clouds build, the showers break—out, some heavy with hail and thunder, they will be wintry too over the higher hills and mountains, particularly in scotland. maybe temperatures a degree or so higher on saturday. the winds are light, so if you are in some sunshine, it will feel reasonable, as it will again on sunday after a chilly start, but the showers will get going once again. more cloud gathering out to our west. that's the area of low pressure i showed you coming in for the bank holiday. now, there is still something to play for in the timing of the arrival of this wet and windy weather moving in from the atlantic on monday. it may well be that the far north of scotland, the far southeast of england stay dry for a large part of the day before the rain gets in. but if you think rain is coming on the bank holiday, the winds are going to be picking up as well and it is going to still be on the cool side for the time of year,
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you won't go far wrong.
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this is bbc news, i'm kasia madera with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. my husband. _ and around the world. my husband, the _ and around the world. ij�*i husband, the president of and around the world. m1 husband, the president of the united states, joe biden! president biden holds the rally in georgia, the first of on its order to encourage americans to support his sweeping economic plans. gaunt and visibly diminished, alexei navalny in court by video link for his first appearance since his hunger strike, accusing president putin is stealing the country's riches. prime minister borisjohnson says there isn't anything to see here as key questions over the refurbishment of his downing
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street flat still go unanswered. and daniel clark denies sexual harassment


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