Mr. Oyelowo, how do you approach playing a historical character?
It’s a very tricky thing because of course you have to be evocative of who they were, how they moved, how they spoke. You have to make people relax and say, “Okay, he feels like him enough that I can just go on this journey with this character.” But if it becomes an imitation, if it’s about mimicry, if all people were saying is, “Oh, yeah, he really got the voice,” you’re dead! That’s the worst compliment you can pay.
Because when you go to see a movie, there is a spiritual exchange between the audience and what you’re watching. There is something metaphysical going on, where through the eyes, through what that person is exuding, you go, “I understand who they are. I have a sense of what they’re feeling when they’re not even talking.” There is an embodiment that is total so that you forget all of that. People shouldn’t be looking at the mechanics of what you did.
What should they be looking at?
How you did it emotionally. I believe that we go to the movies to see ourselves. “How would I react?” If all you’re seeing is a superhuman human being who had answers for everything, then you’re just watching in awe and it’s just like, “Okay, wow, he’s him and I’m me.” So I think it’s important that we can see ourselves on screen and I think that also means that we’re looking for the greatness in ourselves.
Is it important for your work to inspire people to be better?
It is important to me! I want to do films that hopefully inspire people to be the best version of themselves. If you look at the films I do, all of them, in some way… the remit I set myself is, “How does this enrich people’s lives?” You know, what’s meaningful? I want films that, when my kids see them, they understand why daddy did those films. They understand how it correlates with the way I’m trying to raise them.
Did you gain that perspective when you became a father?
Being a father teaches you very quickly that you are not the center of your own universe. That’s one of the gifts of having to wipe poop! (Laughs) Other people’s poop… Four times, with four children! I’ll be on a plane tomorrow back to my kids, lock my door, and it’ll all be about poop again! (Laughs) That’s the life I lead.
I’m sure that makes it easier to focus on the important things in life.
The fact of the matter is that every actor’s career has highs and lows. When success as an actor comes early, it’s very easy to believe the hype. But to me, it’s about how consistently you do the work – whether it’s celebrated or it’s not. I’ve been in movies with huge movie stars who have been crucified when there are failures and who have been adulated when there are successes.
In the last few years you’ve been in The Help, Lincoln, The Butler, and most recently you portrayed Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma. Why is it so important for you to make films about African-American history?
We need those films. Up until recently, films that deal with civil rights and racial unrest have mostly been told through white characters, through white protagonists. Malcolm X is probably the only film I can think of where you have an indisputable black American leader as the focus of the film. What you’ve tended to have is Mississippi Burning or you have Glory or you have these films that are all through white protagonists. Great films – but a different point of view. You can’t have a film about Dr. King and it be all about Lyndon Johnson in my opinion.
Why do you think there are so many films about African Americans coming out of Hollywood lately?
I think it’s synonymous with Barack Obama’s presidency. I think having a black president means that for a lot of white people there is an opportunity to not just focus on what’s negative about the past, but we have clear indications of progress, so it becomes easier to go: “How did we get here, historically? How have we got to the point where we have a black president?” All these films, they were just not getting made before his presidency. I actually saw President Obama about two weeks ago when we took Selma to the White House, and I thanked him for my career.
What was his reaction?
He went, “Ah, I don’t know about that.” But I told him, “Trust me. I can track when these films came my way!” I can chart it because it’s synonymous with when I moved to L.A. I’ve been in five of those movies! So I think that’s what it is.
And last year 12 Years a Slave even won the Oscar for Best Picture.
But a film about a slave is different than a film about a leader. Black people have been celebrated as slaves and butlers… The very first black person to win an Oscar was for playing a maid in Gone With The Wind, Hattie McDaniel. So, you know, that’s not an issue. We’ve been celebrated as subservient people forever. Great! Fabulous! As leaders? No, not so much. Barely ever.
To quote Dr. King, do you believe that the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice in the end?
I think it does – if love is where you’re operating from. I think if you have anger and bitterness in your heart, and you just decide to lash out against it, all you do is you feed prejudice because prejudice exists on the basis that you are lesser than. If you prove that you are lesser than, you are only going to perpetuate that myth. I think there is a reason why the phrase is moral because to be moral is to absolutely embrace the fact that there is a right and there is a wrong. So the only way it bends towards justice is to be part of the solution as opposed to being part of the problem.
Source: The Talk
FROM THE WAYNE MCGREGOR INTERVIEW: “I SEE BEAUTY IN THE DYSFUNCTIONAL”
Mr. McGregor, how would you describe your unique style of choreography?
I see beauty in things that are dysfunctional rather than just pure line and shape. The aspiration of classical ballet has often been about a kind of grace and effortlessness and lyricism in the body, an instrument that’s in fantastic motion. I think that’s really beautiful and really interesting, but I also think there’s a whole other range of physical potential that a human body can do. So, I’m interested in that side of it. I’m interested in bodies misbehaving.
Where do you think that comes from?
I’ve always had a very long body, so I’ve been able to do things differently. I was doing body-popping and a lot of club stuff when I was around 18, when rave culture came around. That kind of permeates the way in which you see people move. I’ve not been in a classical ballet school — where you’ve seen bodies move in a particular way — since the age of eight.
“Everybody carries their own physical history, so it doesn’t matter if you’ve trained in hip-hop or body-popping or classical ballet. It’s all the same, really.”
You never had any traditional ballet training?
No! And that’s why it was so strange that I would get these really amazing jobs at places like The Royal Ballet, where I was the first resident choreographer who had never trained in a royal ballet. But I don’t think any of that matters. Being a choreographer is about the biomechanics and signature of the body. Everybody carries their own physical history, so it doesn’t matter if you’ve trained in hip-hop or body-popping or classical ballet. It’s all the same, really.
Did you go back to school to gain the technical knowledge necessary to talk to professional dancers?
Kind of. I did a degree in choreography and semiotics, as well as contemporary dance training, but I got my practice in ballet through actually doing it, right? So the first time you ever work with somebody on pointe shoes, you ask them, “What can you do?” I had no idea what you can do! But less important than knowing how the pointe shoe works is to have good dancers in the room who, when you say, “Can you do that?” they can go, “Oh no, but I can do this.”
Your approach to teaching choreography seems to rely more on collaboration than authority.
It’s a dialogue. I try to work with the best people possible and suck out their brilliance as much as possible. The job of a choreographer is to find what’s personal to them. When I worked with Thom Yorke, for example, I found out that he’s an amazing dancer. Full stop. He doesn’t really need a choreographer.
So you based the choreography around his natural movement?
Right and I think it should be like that for everyone! The “Lotus Flower” video is choreographed but it comes from him, so he feels he owns it already. He’s giving it to me, and I’m just helping him form it in a different way. When you’ve got somebody so extraordinary, it’s exciting for a choreographer; it’s effortless. Sometimes technique gets in the way of letting dancers be curious and open and try new things. Their idea of physical beauty gets in the way of them exploring. For me, there’s no point in being an artist now and just repeating things that happened in the past.
Source: The Talk
OLE SCHEEREN TALKS: “HOW CAN WE BREAK THE MOLD?”
Mr. Scheeren, what experiences would you say changed your understanding of the world?
I think when you grow up in Europe, almost no matter where, you have a very sheltered idea of how things are. So going backpacking through China 25 years ago really confronted me with a reality that was unimaginable. Simply the amount of people around you, a completely different definition of personal space, of how things would work, of how people live… The main reason to go was that I knew nothing about the world, and China seemed the most impenetrable. Somehow that trip was a discovery of a reality that I had no idea about before. It was quite a transformative moment for me because it liberated me.
Liberated you from what?
It showed me that things could be dramatically different but maybe equally valid or equally interesting. For instance, I think that the power in China was not in holding on to its past in the way that other developed nations do, it was in the complete focus on the future. There was very little sentimental baggage. It was simply a search for how to progress. That experience was very raw, you could feel this incredible energy somehow in that country. People were hungry for things to happen, people were interested in what the future could be.
“That strong sense of courageousness was a very exciting context for an architect to engage with.”
Ma Yansong says architects should involve the public more when envisioning the future of urban planning.
Well, that strong sense of courageousness, that strong sense of demand, or exploration, was a very exciting context for an architect to engage with. It wasn’t just about how could we stick to what we already know but how can we rethink things for which there are no particular models. For example, in China, someone came to us and said, “We want to build a bookshop that is 100,000 square-meters large.” And you go, “What do you mean? Not even a public library is that size!” But then you visit an existing bookstore in Seoul that is half that size and it’s completely full of people. You see that energy and that density and you think, “Of course you can double it!” But at first it sounds like a completely implausible idea.
But bigger doesn’t always mean better…
True. What is important is to not simply succumb to the generic production of quantity and built mass, but to really ask how could we develop models out of this inevitable density, that are much more valuable towards us as human beings — towards a question of how we want to live, what is the quality of our life, and how do we want to exist in a city that grows extensively. I think we’ve been quite successful in finding clients that were ultimately willing to engage in these dialogues to see how we can break the mold, how we can, in a very literal way, open the skyscraper up to the life of people.
Like with your Interlace apartment complex in Singapore?
Exactly, the Interlace was a redefinition of a building as something that was no longer just an object, but a connective tissue that would form a huge community. The way the building blocks are stacked up forms huge gardens and courtyards, so it was about defining the space to live in that would allow you an incredible degree of freedom to decide for yourself. I think that’s what ultimately makes for an incredible quality of life in that place. Another example is the Sky Forest project in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. For that, we imagined the nature that you could soak up in the middle of a very dense, emerging part of the city.
Have you ever been surprised by how people inhabited your buildings?
In a way, that’s the best thing that can happen, when people are inspired enough to make their own story out of it. It’s not that they have to live your story — I think that would be a rather oppressive scenario. Architecture should never be too prescriptive in terms of telling you what to do. I think it’s actually brilliant when people find ways to reinterpret the spaces we create. For example, by complete coincidence, I found on the Internet a girl living at the Interlace who had posted a series of “My Life at the Interlace” videos, where she rollerblades throughout the complex — that was really a great moment. We couldn’t have scripted anything as good as that.
Source: The Talk
THADDAEUS ROPAC SAYS: “PEOPLE ARE HUNGRY FOR NEW ART”
Mr. Ropac, as one of the most successful gallerists in the world, do you find it difficult to decide between things you want to collect for yourself and things that you want to sell?
I’m confronted with this decision every single day. I sometimes compete with my best clients over pieces. Sometimes people say that if a gallerist is also a good collector then he will never sell the good pieces! But we’re here to place the work. And I have 80 employees in galleries in both Paris and Salzburg that all want a salary at the end of the month, so of course I have to keep the business afloat. But I’m in a fortunate position that allows me to keep some of the works. My collection is growing over time and eventually it will really mean something. I still feel young, so I still feel I haven’t entirely reached my goal.
Do you have to like something personally in order to exhibit it or represent that artist?
Of course we don’t choose artists whose work we don’t like – that would be a funny thing to do! That is exactly the freedom we have. Museums have to make an overview of where art is, they have to take in things they like and dislike. But as a private gallery, we are in a position where we can choose what we show and whom we represent. There are too many great artists that I get very excited about for me to work with artists that don’t get my emotion going. Without this, I would not be good. I just know myself.
At what point did you begin to trust your taste and have confidence in the things that you like?
Well, I was fortunate enough to meet Jean-Michel Basquiat before he was known in Europe. I had never heard the name; he was this African-American working in a basement in New York. After I met him, he gave me a portfolio of his drawings and that was my first little show at the beginning of the ’80s. I believed 100% in this artist, but in a naïve way. I didn’t know much, but I believed in it. I didn’t need somebody to tell me this is great, I felt this is great. I don’t know, maybe it’s a gut feeling. I don’t know why it worked out so well, but I always believed 100% in the artists I worked with. There was no doubt in my mind.
How did you get in touch with Basquiat?
It was my first visit to New York and I didn’t know anybody there, but through Joseph Beuys I was connected with Andy Warhol. I was a nobody from Austria, but I asked Warhol about young artists and somehow he said, “This is a young artist.” Of course, I maybe wouldn’t have looked at Basquiat so carefully if somebody else had given me his name, so it was helpful for me that it was Warhol. But when I first met Basquiat, I did not know what to expect. I went in and he was working on the floor… It was an amazing experience. And it led to several shows during his lifetime. We worked together between 1982 and 1988. We had four wonderful shows with him.
Having met so many artists over your career, do you believe that some people are great artists and some people simply are not?
I’ve seen artists trying so hard to be great artists, trying very hard for years, dedicated to it every day, but just not making it. I think you don’t learn to be an artist, and you don’t learn to create a great work of art. It’s a gift. You can study – I’m a strong advocate of art schools. I’m involved in the Fine Arts Academy here in Paris and I always think it’s a good idea that people start to learn if they feel they can do it because it gives you an advantage. It speeds up the process because you receive guidance from professors that are often successful artists themselves and this helps you. But nobody can tell you to create great art. Nobody. If it is not within you, forget it.
“Contemporary art was hardly taken seriously before, but now people are aware of the art of today.”
How has collecting and selling art changed in the last 30 years?
It started like a very elitist thing in an ivory tower. People hardly knew anything about contemporary art and the art world also presented itself like an elitist club – not in terms of money, but in terms of approachability. I’ve seen it move into the center of life today, which is a very positive development. Now art is really part of almost everybody’s life, automatically. Contemporary art was hardly taken seriously before, but now people are aware of the art of today. And that is so much more exciting.
It’s true that a lot more people are interested in contemporary art, but to me it still seems to be in the ivory tower.
There is still a generation, I guess, that is not so aware. But even my housekeeper knows a little bit about art… In sports news they make references to Jeff Koons. I find that surprising! They don’t even need to explain it, they just use it as a reference. As good as this is, it also brings attention to contemporary art that has attracted a lot of speculation and we see the result in today’s prices for certain artists.
I read that you sometimes have people showing up at the gallery with suitcases of money wanting to buy art pieces. Was that a literal statement?
Yes, it happened! But it was just one incident. We do business with a variety of art collectors, so that was just one example of how things can go wrong. We try to protect our artists from the price rising too rapidly, but we are not the ones who decide. The market has become very fast. At the auction houses, there are huge groups of advisors and art consultants. Some of them are very serious and they know what they are doing, but some of them don’t. They just want to be associated with the art world, which at the moment is very chic, without doing their homework first. They turn collectors almost into speculators by saying, “Buy this today, and sell it tomorrow as a profit.” It is language you would have never used before. We still try to avoid this as much as we can.
Art Basel Miami is one of the places where the most art is sold, but it’s also become a pop culture event with celebrities and parties and all these other things going on.
Miami is a good example of how things can potentially go wrong. If the parties are taking over the art… I’m not against it and I don’t want to say that their motivations within the art world always have to be the most idealistic. I’m not saying that at all. But Miami has become quite a circus. I don’t want to judge it, people seem to have such a good time there and I don’t want to spoil their fun, but the question is: how much good does it to do for the art world itself? And that I don’t know. I cannot answer that. If it brings attention to the art, it’s perfect. If it takes away the attention and channels it into pure entertainment, then of course I’m against it.
Why is it important for you to discriminate among your buyers and not just sell to the highest bidder?
We’re trying to accompany artists for many years to see how they develop and how museums and the press treat them. We want to help them go through all of these important steps of a career. So we still try to work with collectors or people who want to collect, but where collecting means something beyond the point that you just want to use it as an asset within your portfolio to invest part of your money. Of course there’s a responsibility that it holds its value, but to only put money into focus is not something we would want – to reduce this to a pure investment vehicle or speculation.
Did you always approach things like that?
It was not necessary before to be careful, because the few people that found their way into contemporary art were welcoming because it was such a small group. You couldn’t really speculate so much on contemporary art and people bought for other reasons. They wanted to live with contemporary art, they were curious. In the last 10 years the context has changed a lot because it has become such a market-driven business. But I think the positive effects of contemporary art becoming more mainstream outweigh the negative aspects. I’m happier today than 30 years ago in terms of the attention artworks get and how much of an integral part art is in life today. In the end, we are in a very fortunate situation today. People are hungry for new art, new artists. The worst is ignorance, when people are not interested in looking at art, but people are more and more curious.
Source: The Talk
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