Episode 15 The Culture Show

Episode 15

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collections. Also: Mark Kermode speaks to artist Steve McQueen


about his second feature film. John Mullan meets the his son of


Alexander Solzhenitsyn to talk about his father's extraordinary


literary work. And Aleks Krotoski speaks to


Wikipedia foundered Jimmy Wales about the freedom of ideas and his


vision for the future. Now we have seen the Arab Spring, I think we


The eclectic buildings competing for the heritage at risk award.


Michael Smith travelled to Birmingham in search of its


cultural soul. And I will be venturing slightly


further afield for a photographic exhibition of Captain Scott and his


First, a trip into the musical mind of poly math David Lynch. Not


content with being a painter, guru of transcendental meditation, Lynch


is back this time as a musician. Miranda Sawyer went to Paris to


meet him and to find out if there's anything the bequiffed one can't


turn his hand to. No filmmaker embraces the magical


qualities of music quite like David Lynch. From the queasy shimmering


title track of Twin Peaks, to the nightmarish lounge music of his


recent film Inland Empire. His sounds are just as memorable as the


And now you can give your own life a lynchian sound track for the man


himself has released his first ever solo MP. It may have been five


years since he last released a film, but he's found a multitude of


creative territories to colonise. All of which begs a question, is it


possible to hop from genre to genre and still be brilliant at


everything?! We are here to talk about your


music. We are actually in a very beautiful printing studios. Why are


we here? We are here because I'm making prints in this beautiful


space. Presses here in this room have been used by Picasso. There's


so much of the past that you can feel when you come in. If you think


about all the different things you do - you do painting, make films,


animation, you print, make music - how does music fit in with that? Is


it the most important element or is it an element? It's an element


which is a beautiful element and each medium is infinitely deep. So


once you start, then you can just keep going. It doesn't end. It just


keeps going. It's just one thrill after another.


Can I talk to you about some of the tracks on the album? Yes, you may.


The obvious one to start with is GoodDay Today. It's not about


something having a great day is it? No, it's a desire for a good day.


# I want to have a good day today # Good day today... #


The atmosphere is slightly dark and creepy in certain elements. There


is a song which mentions maybe a bit of stalking. Is that the mood


that you have when you make it or, does it just come out like that


one where you talk about stalking is like the feel of that thing came


about because that particular night, the guitar just had a different


sound. It was incredible. I barely touched this thing and it just


started singing. And I really like some of these little notes and the


way it is in there. Then it's called Speed Roadster. The guitar


started sounding like a roadster and gave birth to the lyrics.


call your phone # You weren't talking


# I kissed your face # Sort of soft... # Even if lyrics


come, it's kind of an intuitive thing. It's not even... They just


start coming, you know, it's like where do they come from, you don't


know, they just come in, like a visitor and you want to make give


the lyrics some coffee, I don't know. It makious very happy when


they come visit. You grew up around the birth of pop music. The birth


of rock'n'roll, they didn't call it pop. There were pops kls, but there


was no pop music -- popsicle. All of a sudden, everything changed. I


just remember being like thrilled beyond the beyond that this music


is talking to you in a great, great, # I went down to the football game


# I went down to the football game... #


Also, you said in the past that pop music, I'm using the word pop music,


I mean good music as well as bad. Sure. It's something that inspired


you, would you ever hear a piece of music and think, I need a film to


go with that, do you start with the music to go with the film? Yes,


Blue Velvet was that, Bobby Vincent's song came out in 61 or 62.


When I heard it then it wasn't rocking my boat. But, later I heard


it and, for some reason, hearing it - I've said it a bunch of times - I


see red lips, night, green lawns going into dark and a car. It just


started making a dream that led to all these ideas coming for Blue


Velvet. # She work blue velvet # Bluer than velvet was the night


# Softer than satin was the light... There's a lot, often in your films


of kind of performance. There's a point where there is a performance,


where you see quite often theatre curtains opening and something


happening. I was wondering how you yourself were thinking of


performing your album? I won't be performing my album.


boo! Yeah. But I would love... I've only done one thing on stage, but


for some reason, I love the stage, I love curtains, I love the idea of


curtains opening, because it seems like we get to go into another


world. Curtains hide something. Then when they open, if it's dark,


and we are moving in, it's just like about kills me it's so


beautiful. Do you ever lose your confidence? Erm, it's not a


question of confidence. It's ideas. So you say like sometimes writers


they say have writer block. The ideas are not coming. That, for me,


is the main reason, well not the main reason, but a very huge reason


why I meditate. The ideas flow more freely. It's this negativity that


kills the flow. It's just the squeezing of the tube. The little


ideas can't get through. They want to help you. Poor ideas! Yes. But


then whoa, they just flow through like these beautiful little fish


and they come in and you catch them. So confidence is nothing to do with


it? No. No. And David Lynch's new album Crazy Clown Time is released


on November 8th. To a literary great now, this week sees the


launch of a book by a man whose life story was every bit as


remarkable as any novel. We sent Professor of English, John Mullan


to investigate the latest work by this Russian master.


He was known as the conscience of Russia, but Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


was also one of the greatest writers of modern times. And he


hainged history by exposing the horrors of the sta inist regime --


changed history by exposing the horrors of the Stalinist regime.


Solzhenitsyn's books couldn't be printed in the Soviet Union, but


were read eagerly outside his land. He made his name with his 1962


novel, one die in the life of Ivan Solzhenitsyn's writing brought him


worldwide critical acclaim, and in 1970, he was awarded the Nobel


Prize for Literature. But the political climate had changed and


he had already been silenced in his own land.


In 1973, the KGB seized his manuscript of the Gulag archipelago,


his painstaking searing history of the Soviet system of political


imprisonment. He was denounced as a traitor in his own country. A year


later, he was stripped of his citizenship and De ported to the


west. He spent 20 years in exile, living as a virtual recluse.


After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Solzhenitsyn made an epic


journey back to Russia to a here row's welcome. - hero's welcome. It


was here he stayed until his death. It's now been three years since


Solzhenitsyn died and a collection of his short stories, Apricot Jam,


already known in Russia, has finally been published for an


English-speaking audience. Supper for the reserve regiment was


served at six in the evening, even though lights out did not come


until ten. Someone had correctly figured that the men would get by


without any more food that way and would sleep through until morning.


Stephan, you're Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's son but the


translator also of one of the stories in this new collection. Was


that an emotional commitment, as well as a demanding literary job?


It is both. It is of course both. The care you need to put into it,


the emotional investment is of course much greater. I had a very


big advantage. If I didn't understand something or if I wanted


to ask about a nuance, I could just go ask dad. I could say what


exactly does this mean or is it more like this or is it more like


that, you know, we could discuss it. Usually translators never get that


level of access, so I was very luck write there. Must have been


particularly demanding with your father's fiction as well, because


language mattered very much to him and the pressures that language was


put under, especially under the Soviet system? He was a master of


language and a lover of language. A lover of the Russian language,


absolutely. Translation is tough, translation of Solzhenitsyn is even


tougher because it's like digesting extremely nutritious very, very


robust porridge, right, there's a lot to work through. It's very good


stuff. Now this, he said, dripping some of the thick apricot jam on to


a spoon, this very amber transparency, this surprising


colour and light should be present in the literary language as well.


And indeed, every singsle apricot lay like a condensed fragment of


sun light in a crystal ball. What's distinctive about these stories,


this new collection? They form a body of work that you could not


have written without his return to Russia. He didn't sense it possible


to actually write them living in the West. He needed to be fed off


the Russians. Things seemed to be rooted in his memory of experiences.


For instance, two wartime stories, actually? Absolutely. Detail was so


important for him and the detailed diaries of the war he kept were


burned immediately upon his arrest in 1945. He said that basically


it's like his memory of the war was killed with him. The details were


not crisp enough in his memory until he actually met some of his


mates from his unit who helped fill in some of the key details that


inspired him to return to the military theme. So in this little


volume, about half of what he ever wrote about World War II, is all


In the dim light, the lieutenant scans the faces of his fighting men.


Their expressions were gloomy, complex, biting their lips, eyes


down, to the side, but outright repentance? No. He did not see that


on any of their faces. What is this coming to? If we go stealing


government property, how are we going to win the wall? Dark and


impenetrable they stood, yet this is with whom we march, to victory


or defeat. What would you say now to those readers who might say that


the terrible history that made your father has gone and that his


writing belongs with the history that has gone? I would say they


have got it a bit wrong. He was a writer and therefore he will always


come to be understood as a writer. That means that generations will


continue to read him and what exactly happened in one year or


another year won't matter so much. The power off his literature,


however, will matter. In this new collection, Solzhenitsyn's fierce


and prophetic voice comes to us from beyond the grave, telling us


again about the dark history of his times. This history may now not


matter so much to us in the West. These stories tell us that it


should. And Apricot Jam and Other Stories


is published by Canongate on November 3rd. While we're on books,


World Book Night announced the list of 25 books to be handed out in


April next year. You can check that out on their website. But now from


the storytellers of the past to a vision of the future, as Wookey


feed -- Wikipedia found a Jimmy Wales tells Aleks Krotoski waif he


thinks the internet will continue to change our lights.


One man's vision of how we access and edit information online has


become a global phenomenon. He grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, deep in


the American South, and for years he wrote computer code in his spare


time before quitting his job in finance to become a full-time


internet entrepreneur. His name is Jimmy Wales. His creation:


Wikipedia. Wikipedia has 20 million articles available in 222 languages,


with 422 million people visiting the website each month, so it seems


fitting that Jimmy Wales will be the keynote speaker at this year's


Free-Thinking Festival, which celebrates ideas. The topics for


2011 is changed. The festival is taking place at the Sage Gateshead,


a suitably futuristic looking crucible for new and innovative


ideas. We have seen so much change that has been attributed to the Web


recently. What do you think the next change is that would involve?


I think there are some exciting things coming. Two billion people


online and in the next five to ten years, maybe another two billion


people will come online and they are not coming from Europe, Japan,


the US, they are coming from China and India, even Africa. That is


driving a huge upsurge in the number of people connected,


particularly in the cities. Because people sure what is interesting,


all kinds of cool cultural influences will be flowing back and


forth. I think it will be really big. What do you imagine will


change when it is not just the people in the urban areas, when


they truly engage with the Web? think a lot of things will happen,


particularly the country's currently that have really dreadful


governments, whether people have had not much hope of positive


change and they will begin to see what has gone on in other places


around the world and to realise that actually, we don't have to put


up with collector crackeds any more, we don't need to have a strong man


system of government -- with clipped opera. What do you imagine


will happen, not just when everybody else has access but after


they have had access for a while and their influences come back on


us? What will happen? It is really interesting. I think China is one


of my favourite examples. When Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize


from China and China it refused to let him travel to receive the award,


they put an empty chair on the stage to symbolise that he had not


been allowed to come to receive the award and all across China, any


mention of his name automatically gets the page filtered, so people


were changing their profile picture, maybe not to the real empty chair


but to any empty chair just to show, this is ridiculous, I know about


this, right? When you get a group of people like this who are


beginning to feel their own strength in those subtle ways, it


is only a matter of time before they go, you guys at the top are


part of the problem and we are going to have massive protests, we


are going to change China. Jimmy's belief in the power of technology


to help create positive change can be traced back to his childhood.


The area he is from was a rural backwater until NASA moved in in


the early 1960s. # Sweet Home Alabama #.


The place where you grew up, Huntsville Alabama, also known as


Rocket City. That is cool. How much of that experience contributed to


your creating technology? Absolutely a lot. Certainly, I have


memories from being a child of windows rattling as they were


testing the rockets and you knew what they were working on, going to


the moon. Amazing. There was a sense of optimism. Technology


changing the world for the better. That spirit I think is implicit on


all of my work, it is who I am and where I came from. The idea of the


internet as a force for positive change, it is the real "beauty is


in the eye of the beholder" statement. There are limitations to


that? I don't think so. For me it is almost completely overwhelmingly


obvious that it is a tool for change. I was in Taiwan, and one of


the local Wikipedia volunteers offered to drive me around and he


said he was raised in a very nationalist household and that they


really hated mainland Communist China and he had been raised to


believe that the mainland Chinese were completely brainwashed and


then he said he started working at Wikipedia and he said, I still


think they are wrong at certain things but I can see that a kind of


have a point. You see that sort of thing, helpful in reducing tensions,


in reducing the ability of militias politicians working people into a


frenzy to go and fight someone. Every war in the entire world


becomes in a sense of civil war because we have all become closer


to each other. I see this Utopian visions stretching ahead of us. I


am thrilled people are like you in the world who think the internet


will bring us all a global group hug but I do not see that happening.


I am not a Utopian, I am a very optimistic person but I think that


none of these things happen automatically. Nothing about


technology in a tacit -- necessitates certain outcomes but


there is a great opportunity for minimising war, having a lot less


of it. I am an optimist! Thank you very much, Jimmy. Thank you for


having me. And Jimmy Wales will be delivering


his keynote speech on change at The Sage Gateshead next Friday, which


will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3. Still to come, we have brilliant


photographic records of the Scott- Shackleton polar expeditions,


Michael Smith's search for the cultural high as a Birmingham and


Mark Kermode's journey to the sad truths of sex addiction in the new


film, Shame. But first it is all about repairing the damage and the


final category of the Heritage Angel Awards. This week Simon


Thurley looks at the four eclectic buildings competing inherited at


risk award category. Not many people today would


consider a cemetery a fashionable place to go, but in its heyday


Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol was the fashionable place to be seen.


It was also the fashionable place to be buried. The huge fortify they


get necropolis was opened in 1839, just two years after Queen Victoria


came to the throne -- 45 acre. It is not surprising it was dubbed a


necropolis. Over 300,000 people were buried here, from mayors,


industrialists to railway workers, but that is what makes this place


so special. It contains a complete cross-section of Victorian society.


When, in the 1990s, the private owners announced that they intended


to close Arnos Vale Cemetery and build 400 new houses on the site,


locals rallied round and petitioned to the council. The plan was to


remove the monumental masonry and to do mass exhumation.


dreadful! It was dreadful. At that time my father had passed away and


he was buried here and there was no way I was going to let that happen.


And your husband Richard has sadly subsequently died. Yes, he's still


here, yes. All that energy you have put into here and your husband's


devotion to it, this place must mean a great deal to you. Yes, it


always has. Sometimes it is hard to come here on my own. But there is


no way I will not come because my Victorian memorials to the dead


come in many shapes and sizes. Nestling in the picturesque village


of the Staffordshire peaks is one man's memorial to his dearly


beloved wife. The I'm a memorial cross was built in 1841 by a


wealthy industrialist, J C Watts Russell, in memory of his wife who


died suddenly aged just 48. Years of weathering saw the cross fall


into serious disrepair and the job of restoring it fell to Ian Ward, a


master mason on the regeneration project. Some of the figures were


very badly eroded so they were re- card. There were six Angel figures


and they are all slightly different, they have a melancholy quality,


especially in their distress sway. Absolutely beautiful things. They


are like guardian angels watching over the village. The third


building competing for the award is the deconsecrated church of St


Stephen's, Rosslyn Hill, in London's leafy Hampstead. It is


architect -- the architect's masterpiece and is often referred


to as his mighty jet. And no wonder. It was his most expensive


Commission -- is mighty church. It cost �27,000, an astronomical sum


in 1869. Toulan, he was a rogue, a group of Victorian architects who


tore up the rule book, who mixed and matched their starts. We have


both Fantine brickwork, French Gothic, English Gothic and


Renaissance thrown in for good measure -- by Santino. I think it


is like a Ragnar, you'll love it or you hate it, and we fell in love


with it. It had been derelict for 20 years. The floor was a rotting


in places. It looked like the black hole of Calcutta. There was 60 tons


of garbage from squatters. Thanks to Michael Taylor and his wife, the


head of a small prep school attached to the church, St


Stephen's has been given a new lease of life. Most of the schemes


that had been put forward over the 20 years of dereliction wanted to


make large structural intrusion into the main body of the building.


We came up with the idea of extending the existing undercroft


so that another branch of the school could move into it and that


has left the main body of the building as you see it in all its


former glory. I know the local community, many of whom have given


money, are very pleased with what we have done. I am told by people


who pass by in the street, Mr Taylor, isn't it wonderful to see


the children bringing life back to The final building on the short


list is the Dome Cinema in the Sussex coastal town of Worthing


which has hardly changed since it was built in 1911 as a plush


picture palace. It was very glamorous. People would


have entered through the double doors, having bought their tickets


at this wonderful pay kiosk, swept up the Titanic staircase and down


into the auditorium and it was so romantic. People loved that, you


know, the fact that they were sitting in this wonderful dark


auditorium with this marvellous magical atmosphere watching a film


which was accompanied by an orchestra.


We had queues all around the building for the Big Philments we


managed to get. Every house was packed up. You just couldn't get in,


because the films were in quite short supply in England just after


the war. John Whittington was a teenager when he started working at


the Worthing Dome in 1945 as a projectionist. If the film broke,


the audience used to bring alarm clocks and let them off, and apart


from the shouting and that, you could hear all the alarm clocks


going off. That was quite fun, really.


Not for us, because we were trying to fix the film, but it was good


fun. Next week, we'll reveal who all the


winners are at the Heritage Angel Award z ceremony in London. But


next tonight, it's been 100 years since Captain Scott ice ill-fated


expedition to the Antarctic. To mark that centenary, there's a new


photographic exhibition at the Queen's Gallery charting his


exploits and those of the slightly later polar explorer Ernest


Shackleton. I met up with modern explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes to try


to understand the unswerving pioneering spirit that drove those


It can be easy to forget that there was once a world the ends of which


were undiscovered, untouched by the cloud of technology and endeavour,


tantalisingly unglimpsed by mankind. That was the world that men like


Robert falcon-Scott and Ernest Shackleton set out to conquer. Now,


it might almost seek lick stating the obvious to say that the poles


of the earth can be traversed, of course we can do it. Those extremes


can be withstood. We've got maps, GPS, we know it can be done. But,


100 years ago, that was far less certain.


It's thanks to photographers Herbert Ponting who accompanied


Scott and Frank Hurley who travelled with Shackleton that


proof of these explorations exist. They brought these images back from


the edge of the world. Finding an uncanny grandeur and forms like


abstract sculpture many the Antarctic's ice scape. But they're


also about a human achievement, only surpassed when man walked on


the moon. Sophie, I'm amazingly struck by


Frank Hurley's photographs of the Shackleton expedition, in


particular this amazing sequence of pictures where he charts step by


step the crashing of their boat by the ice? They're extraordinary


aren't they? It really shows how determined Hurley was to capture


the story of the expedition once it had gone wrong and it unfolded. He


wanted to be there on the ice the whole time, so once the ship


started to become crushed, he spent about three days out on the ice. He


just was determined not to miss a single moment of the sequence of


events as the ship slowly disappeared beneath the ice. It's


grizzly, almost like a still camera version of a movie. A disaster


movie. Yes, and that's what I can't get over, I suppose, the fact that


it's as if he might be photographing his own death because,


with the loss of the boat, things don't look very good? We come with


the knowledge of what eventually happened and the fact that they all


survived. Of course, Hurley and the men at that time were watching


their only way home slowly disappear under the ice. It was


really quite extraordinary that he had the presence of mind to be


there to record all of this. Am I right in thinking that, as the


expedition got into deeper and deeper trouble, he had to make some


very, very tough editorial decisions? He did. There was the


moment when they'd taken everything off the ship and the ship had been


crushed that they realised they were going to have to get into the


lifeboats in order to find land. That meant they were limited in


what they could take and the glass plates that Hurley was producing


was incredibly heavy. From about 500 negatives he'd already made, he


had to narrow it down to a selection of about 120. So, he sits


there, with Shackleton, and say s yes, we'll keep that, no, we won't


keep that one. The ones they decide not to keep, they smash because


Hurley might have wanted to run back for them. Don't put temptation


in the way? Chactly. -- exactly. It's apparent that when they are in


the lifeboats and have to lose more weight in order to keep going. They


make the decision to throw the food overboard in order to keep the


films and the cameras, so it really shows how important they are.


Looking at the photographs, it's daunting to consider the conditions


Ponting and Hurley endured to take them. A man who survived the


extremes is Sir Ranulph Fiennes. He talked me through the earlier


doomed expedition of Captain Scott who hoped to be the first to reach


the South Pole. Little did he know that another


party from Norway were already on their way.


When they set out from New Zealand, we met one of his stokers, Stoker


Burton was his name. He was in his '80s, but he was on Scott's


expedition and there he was live living in New Zealand. That is


amazing. Yes, it's 70 years later, but it's within living memory.


is it like travelling on a boat like that, on a sea like that,


because it looks absolutely vatiginous? Ponting was stramed


with his camera on the rigging which might have been sea-sick


making. -- strapped with his camera. There were unpleasant days and I


took a lot of pills and stuck on a lot of patches which Scott wouldn't


have been able to do. That looks like a cold, harsh sea? You don't


want to make mistakes with the cold. If you are on a hot desert


expedition, you can learn by your mistakes. You don't learn by your


mistakes. I've lost a load of fingers in that side in one three-


minute mistake. You can see how much finger got lost. That was just


three minutes because I travelled at a dangerous time and my sledge


with all my safety gear fell in. It was minus 46, the ice was breaking


up everywhere and the only way I could get the sledge back out of


the sea was to put one hand in and then of course it got cold and


within the three minutes, there was no life left in these fingers, so


you have a nightmarish situation caused by an initial error.


I find these pictures in particular quite haunting because they're


taken, of course, by the explorers themselves. Yes. So we know that


those plates, for those pictures, were actually recovered with their


bodies. You can sense that they feel gutted that they found the


tent, the flag, they realised that the Norwegians got there first. Do


you think that was De moralising for them? It would have been for


anybody. But it wouldn't have stopped their will to survive and


to get back would have taken over their disappointment to not have


gotten there first. Sadly it wasn't enough. Scott and the team were


trapped by an apoll lick tick blizzard 11 miles from salvation


where they eventually succumbed to the Antarctic cold. These were


raised over their bodies, entombing them in the ice forever.


Then it comes to the last room of all. I suppose that's the great


relbic, I suppose, the flag he actually planted -- relic. It lay


with the dead bodies for eight months. When they discovered the


death tent, there was only about ten inches of it sticking above the


snow drifts, so they'd arrived there a week later, the tent would


have disappeared, the diaries, the flag, everything else and the


bodies would never have been found, nobody would have known anything


about what happened to the expedition. He was found with his


two great friends lying dead on either side of him. They died quite


a few days before he did, so he lingered on and somehow managed to


write his diary until within four or five days of his death. It


wouldn't have been a good way to go. And that exhibition, the Heart of


the great Alone opened on 2 October and continues until 22nd April next


year. In a similarly intrepid spirit, we sent Michael Smythe to


explore the cultural landscape of Birmingham.


Recently voted the most boring city in all of Europe!


Birmingham's a blank in my mind, a blind spot in the heart of Middle


England. It's been voted the most boring city in Europe by trip


advisor's travel website, shunned by the Lonely Planet guide books


and has even lost out to Londonderry for the coveted title


of City of Culture. There's a restless and unsettled quality


about Birmingham, like the place has never really worked out what it


is. It's a bewildering place for a visitor, it's messy, formless


confusion of different styles. You get the Industrial Revolution torn


down to make way for '60s brutalist high-rise and motorways. Then that


failed future gets torn down to make way for this bland and sterile


millennium architecture. The soul's been squeezed out of the


centre of Birmingham. Even artist Gillian Wareing's new project to


find a family to be the face of the city is currently being exhibited


in this corporate hotel. When it's done, the bronze sculpture of the


family will be plonked outside yet another new building, the generic


box of the library. Bored tourists would never find it,


but escape the oppressive blandness and find art hidden away in the


dilapidated buildings just east of the city centre. Abandoned Curzon


Street Station has been taken over by some very strange machines.


The artists have responded to the space with places inspired by


trains, machines and the mechanical process. Tape cassette recorders


wear and clunk, machines project cosmic light and old camera lenses


frame. The exhibition chimes perfectly with the industrial


messiness of the city. Messiness is in Birmingham's DNA, once known as


the city of a thousand trades and teamed with small scape workshops.


This area was the Crucible of Birmingham where the confusion of


workshops clustered. The 20th century version of this are the


small artist studios gathered teeth by Jowell with the remaining


industry. There's loads of art pieces tucked


away here. This is a piece of graffiti commissioned by a local


gallery and it's activated when you touch these two points. The sounds


all come from the motorcycle repair shop next door and it's interesting


to think the sounds of the city that inspired heavy metal are also


inspiring works like these. The East side projects run one of the


bigst galleries here. It opened Brummy sausage art! So Birmingham's


been voted the most boring city in Europe for a few years running. Why


do you think it still has that reputation with all this going on?


Well, I mean, I don't know, partly maybe if you ask a stupid question


you get a stupid answer, but it's a pain in the cars that Birmingham is


the stupid answer. I left Birmingham when I was a kid because


I didn't think it was interesting, I thought it was boring but I moved


back five years ago because I think it's something else now. What is


distinctive about Birmingham's art scene? What I thought was weird


about the city in a way is, it's such a massive city and never


really had an art scene, so we try and learn from something like


Glasgow, we've learned from scenes, scenes arise in Manchester or


Newcastle. I think we can be really ambitious because it could grow in


principle. The city could support a massive art scene.


The creative enclave here seems in tune with the self--efacing and


independent Brummy spirit. For a second city, there's always been


something strangely humble about it, just quietly getting on with things


and not feeling the need to shout about itself.


To me, this area feels like a grass roots DIY ant dote to all that's


gone wrong in the city centre. You've just got to know where to


look. Hiya. Hi, you all right? Totally intriguing this project,


Pigeon project. Is it a strong Brummy tradition? Yes, Birmingham


and the Black Country. Within a three mile radius here, there's 45


competitive pigeon flyers. Do you race them? Yes, in a local pigeon


club. There's also a lot of local artists and galleries that sponsor


pigeons as part of our syndicate. How do you make art with pigeons?


curated an exhibition for which the pigeons carried art works from


different low cases across the country in different artist studios


carrying little message tunes and USB sticks with videos on and GPS


systems and the pigeons clifred the art work. So the exhibition was in


their pigeon lofts -- delivered the art work. Do you think Birmingham


and the art scene is distinctive? Is it unusual? Yes, definitely


exciting and edgy. You can do things in Birmingham that I don't


think you would be able to do in other parts of the country. I could


never imagine keeping pigeons under a viaduct in the centre of London.


Can I see a pigeon? Yes, I'll get you one of the pile Errolers. It


does backflips along the floor and We are five minutes from the city


centre but we may as well be in a different kettle world. It is


ridiculous to say that Birmingham is the most boring city in Europe.


Birmingham is boring if you are boring, but if you don't want your


culture spoon-fed, if you are adventurous and wedding to go off


the beaten track, it is all here and waiting for you to discover it.


Now we join Alex Renton, who went to Armenia with Oxfam up to report


on the food crisis, where five years ago almost a quarter of the


population were undernourished, with half of that figure living on


less than $2 a day. The result is a series of photographs of empty


kitchens to sit alongside the shocking statistics, illustrating


I find kitchens moving and revealing. They can often tell you


much more about the people who live in them than looking at their


bookshelf or music collection can. I am a journalist, I write about


development. I was keen to write about somewhere where people were


newly poor and newly hungry but Armenia was particularly moving


because these people, on the edge of Europe, are very easily


identified with and they have gone middle class to abject poverty,


African levels of poverty, in 20 years. The collapse of the Soviet


Union meant subsidised wheat did not come through, climate change


has made the traditional crops in these mountains harder to grow and


a lot of the people are refugees who came from Azerbaijan with no


skills on how to live up on the slow line and grow vegetables


because they were the urban middle class. The most moving for me with


these guys, the Josephians. Hasmik with her five children and her


Plastic sheeting in the windows. We went into the mountains above the


village and this is what Hasmik does every day to feed her children.


She finds the roots and vegetables wild and this is the first green as


they had seen in six months so this is exciting. In the evening she


cooked us an omelette with the greens but it was one egg. The rest


of the meal was some pasta, which in the traditional way they fry up


till it is almost burned and then boil it, and for the children this


is a treat, they gobbled it up like a roast chicken. In these countries


where you have seen this very swift economic collapse, there are


enormous cultural changes. People are thrown back into the lifestyles


of 600, a 1,000 years ago. What interests me is that the basic


principles of how you sit down with your family and get joy even if


there is not enough food remains the same.


While we were watching her cook, I was distracted and fascinated by


the way she had arranged her cooking implements. All of them


were old and battered and much loved, I think. She laid a piece of


cloth against the wall so she could hang them up to drive and be ready


to grab, as all of us do, and to protect the wallpaper. So after we


had been in Hasmik's house, I made sure I made a few minutes in the


other people's kitchens, looking at these natural still lives. And


realised there was something there, an internal beauty about the way we


organise our everyday objects. So I This is another lady in another


village. She said she had brought these plates 20 years ago from her


city when she became a refugee and preserved them. In the way they


boarded their dishcloth, they arranged their pots and their much


loved old saucepan, those told a story of the struggle and these


terrible circumstances, the struggle to stay civilised and


dignified and provide, as you must, Next we move from the kitchens of


Armenia to the bedrooms and boardrooms of New York, the setting


for Steve McQueen's new film, Shame. It has already picked up a Best


Actor award at the Venice Film Festival Paul Michael Fassbender's


performance as a sex addict and it has just had its UK premiere at the


London Film Festival. Mark Kermode went to meet the director to talk


about the challenges of using such Not content with beating Tracey


Emin to the Turner Prize in 19 99th and serving as an official war


artist in Iraq, Steve McQueen is making a mark in the world of


feature films. His new film Shame centres on a sex addict in New York,


with life is falling apart. This is the second time he has collaborated


with Michael Fassbender. They first worked together on Hunger, about


Bobby Sands. Shame adds almost as a companion to Hunger, as Steve


McQueen unflinching leak explores all things corporeal. What is it


about the subject of sex addiction that intrigues you? In the film, as


his addiction becomes more and more rampant, he becomes more and more


alienated, although he says that is What fascinated me was that this


eviction, in some ways you need someone to facilitate it. Not all


the time of course. I love the idea of that drama, there are two people,


one wanted something from the other person, that control, but also it


was all about struggle, and knowing you had a problem in the first


place. When I first read about sex addiction I found it funny but then


you realise this person, similar to an alcoholic, longs to get through


a day without relieving himself, I don't know how many times a day,


but that is sad. It ceases to become funny. I think to be in love


with someone is pretty brave. That person can break your heart. For


him, somewhere along the line in his life, he didn't want that to


happen and he didn't want the possibility of being vulnerable.


Many of the scenes involves a degree of physical nakedness and


also emotional nakedness. Tell me how difficult that may be to work


with a cast. One imagines that acting without your clothes on is


not something which everybody is comfortable with. No, then they are


not very good actors, are they? If Michael was walking around with a


bazooka and an AK- 47, no one would say anything, but the bizarre is


normal and abnormal is bizarre. He is an actor and we had to get to


the emotional depth of the character. This is 1951, a lot of


people didn't wear pyjamas, they got up and they were naked, that is


what you do. End of story. There have been comparisons made between


Michael Fassbender and Marlon Brando in terms of physical


performance and people now view Michael fast bend as arguably one


of the greatest screen actors of his generation -- Michael


Fassbender. TUC a connection? I do. -- do you see a connection


was made he is a man's man but there is a certain fragility which


is beautiful. You can project yourself as the audience on him and


see yourself. This gite nailed it today. You are


the man. Your pitch was amazing -- this guy it nailed it today. He is


just picking colours randomly! can bring you in. He doesn't push


you away. He can bring you in because he is not afraid to show


his vulnerability. He is exceptional. Tell me about


Brandon's relationship with free. There is a key confrontation


between them when she says, we are not bad people but we come from a


bad place. One of the things I admire it is that you are never


explicit about what that bad places although it seems to me the film


had suggestions as to what it might be. Tell me what you can about what


that line meant. I wanted to make their past familiar rather than


mysterious. I also didn't want it to be and let out for Brandon...


Like an explanation. Precisely, for what he does in the movie. It is


their past. When we meet people in general, we know nothing about them


other than what they present and sometimes there are tales of the


past in the present when you are with them. In the film, the biggest


tell was when Carey Mulligan is singing New York New York to


Brandon and it is the only time when Brandon listens to secede and


he has to listen to her, he can't move and he can't escape, it is a


performance. He has to listen, he is forced do. In terms of where you


go from here, two feature films, critically very well received, do


you see future from making as the primary part of your future or do


you see yourself as a visual artist who happens to work in film?


don't want people to make me have to choose! I want to do what I want


to do. Next time I might want to dance, I don't know! No, really, it


is not even a joke. As an artist, as a person who wants to do stuff,


you should do stuff, whatever it is. There is no barrier or divide. I


Shame is released in the UK on the 13th of January next year. Next


week's Culture Show is on Saturday at 6pm, where Mark Wallinger talks


about the White Horse project, Terence Conran shows us the Way we


Live now and the Journalist Anne McElvoy investigates the power of


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