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Hello and welcome to The Culture Show.
I'm at the Southbank Centre here in London,
a city limbering up for this summer's Olympics.
Over the next six weeks we will be bringing you highlights of The London 2012 Festival,
which is a truly nationwide finale to the Cultural Olympiad.
We'll also be bringing you the very best of the rest from the world of arts and culture.
This week, Miranda Sawyer finds out why everyone is smiling for Yoko Ono.
Martin Amis introduces James Runcie to the lucky lotto lout at the heart of his latest novel.
I find out what happens when artists take over the classroom.
And we have a rare performance from the Pina Bausch Dance Company.
But, first, take the surreal style of veteran film-maker David Cronenberg
and add the box office appeal of rising star Robert Pattinson
and you've got the metaphysical road movie called Cosmopolis.
Mark Kermode took to the streets in style to meet the director
and his leading man.
Once dubbed the cinema of extreme,
David Cronenberg's films span the heart-breaking body horror of The Fly...
-We've got to get help. I think you must be sick.
..to the glacial chill of Crash...
You've bought yourself the same car again.
..each work exploring some of the most profound aspects of the human condition.
Cronenberg's new film Cosmopolis is an intense psychosexual thriller
from the postmodern novel by Don DeLillo.
It follows Wall Street tycoon, Eric Packer,
and his chauffeur-driven limo ride across town
to get a haircut at his father's old barber.
During the course of his journey,
the world outside descends into financial and civil chaos
triggering the personal and professional disintegration of Packer -
played by Twilight star, Robert Pattinson.
We know what the anarchists have always said.
The urge to destroy is the creative urge.
As always with Cronenberg, subtext is supertext -
the limo becomes Packer's exoskeleton,
a capitalist carapace in which to exert his wealth, power and control.
And whilst the casting of blockbuster frontman Pattinson
as the quasi-psychopathic playboy may be a surprising move,
he delivers a magnetically credible performance.
A report from the complex, it's a credible threat not to be dismissed.
Which means a ride across town is...
We've had numerous threats, all credible. I'm still standing here.
Hello, Robert, welcome to The Culture Show.
Thank you very much.
Thank you for having me in your limousine - very fancy!
You said you were worried about being overexposed and typecast.
I mean, the interesting thing about this character is that there is an element of vampirism about him.
When I watch this, I think it's like a science fiction movie,
it is like a horror, it has all those elements in it.
Yeah, it's like a ghost story.
Like, that's kinda what I thought about -
everybody's dead in it,
like, everyone's dead. The whole world is dead.
But the vampire aspect of it, I don't think,
cos he's not trying to take anything from the world.
He's trying to create a new world,
he's trying to create a new reality
which is the opposite of being a parasite.
You look gorgeous today.
For someone who is 41 and finally understands what her problem is.
What is that?
The most difficult thing about watching the film is the silences between the words,
because you're so used to hearing music or sound effects in those gaps.
Also the structure of the limo when we were shooting it,
especially the early scenes when you're trying to be confident
and your voice sounds so dead.
There's nothing, no reverberation.
Everyone sounds like you're in shitty headphones
and it was horrible for a second.
Obviously, people know you from the movies,
but, before that, you were doing Shakespeare on stage.
You're used to projecting and using your voice theatrically, right?
Not really. I mean, I did a Macbeth,
which my only review was that no-one could hear me.
So you're rubbish at projecting?
I got fired from a play as well for not being loud enough.
I've never learnt how to project,
I thought that was like the Brando thing,
that it could work in theatre.
I didn't realise that Brando actually could project.
So this is the ideal role for you,
if you get fired from a play for not being loud enough -
a completely silent limousine where everybody can hear every creak of your throat.
Cronenberg's films make you feel uncomfortable -
they make you feel uneasy. It is the cinema of unease, isn't it?
Yeah, you have to be incredibly sympathetic to the movie,
to a movie that's not sympathetic to you at all.
Sure, a movie that doesn't present you with a likeable character for most of the running time.
There was a review of it that said it was "aggressively unlovable" -
which I thought was perfect - it should be on the poster.
And I think that it really is that.
But, I mean, I think that's so much better.
It's not pandering to an audience, you know,
it's respecting an audience and so, hopefully, that works.
Show me something I don't know.
-Robert, thank you very much.
-Thank you very much.
-Hello, David. Welcome to The Culture Show.
In terms of what the central character represents,
when we were talking to Robert about it,
he says he's not quite human, he's somebody he described as a ghost.
How would you describe Packer?
Well, of course, that's Rob talking after the fact,
because I think no actor wants to play an abstract concept.
It's impossible to play yourself as the symbol of American capitalism for example.
An actor would freak out if you said you're playing this symbol,
because actors have to use their bodies, they have to use the reality of the other character
and the reality of the dialogue.
So I think he's a real person.
The line which stayed with me most from the film is, you know,
money is losing its narrative and money is now talking to itself.
-And I don't think I understood what it meant at the time,
but it stayed in my head.
These guys are making money by making money and producing money
and that's it, it's all a closed circle,
there's nothing else going on.
There's no escape from the money circle,
and that's, in a sense, money talking to itself, that's the way I interpret it.
You've dealt previously with the idea of cars, both in Fast Company,
and, most famously, Crash.
Tell me about the philosophy of what the car means to you. I know you're a car enthusiast.
I am a car enthusiast, but this movie is not a car enthusiast movie,
-because the car isn't really even a car. I mean, technically...
-It's a spaceship.
It is a spaceship, it's also a prison,
it becomes... It's a coffin.
It's a seat of power,
and it makes his limo a spaceship,
a kind of vacuum tube, you know? There's no air in it.
He lives this bubble life that begins to suffocate him and frustrate him
to the point that he wants to escape from the life that he's created.
Where's your car?
We can't seem to find it.
-David, thank you very much.
-Thank you. Thank you for the wild ride.
And Cosmopolis is in cinemas now.
Next, from one of the most famous actors on the planet
to a woman once described by John Lennon as "the world's most famous unknown artist".
But, now, with a new exhibition showcasing five decades of her work,
we can now all get to know the artist that is Yoko Ono a little bit better.
In the last few years,
DJs have started crashing out remixed tracks like this one.
And a generation of topless men
and bikini'd party girls punched their arms in the air.
But I wonder if any of them would have recognised that breathy, unearthly vocal.
I would have - it's Yoko Ono.
Although she has been making music all her life,
it was her conceptual art that first got her noticed.
And it still does today.
As far back as 1964,
performance works like Cut Piece challenged what art could be.
Here, a seated Yoko invited members of the audience
to cut away her clothing.
And when she reworked Cut Piece almost 40 years later
it still had the power to shock.
So, Yoko, we are here at the Serpentine
and you've chosen to show two of your Cut Pieces opposite each other.
-How do you feel when you look at those pieces?
Obviously, they're from different times of your life?
When I see what I did in the '60s -
innocence, innocence is what comes to my mind.
And, well, the one I did in 2003
looks like somebody who went through a shock!
A shocking life. Which was true.
It's also interesting, because it has a different meaning,
because you have a different meaning.
Well, yes, my life was very different from what I expected
and that shows.
But it was not just that,
I was feeling about expressing how women are treated
as well as how we can survive it
by allowing people to do things that they want to do,
instead of just insisting what we want to do.
So there were many levels of message in that.
That's interesting what you say,
cos that's slightly against the feminist grain -
the idea that you can be a strong and experienced woman
and do what you want to do
while letting other people do what they wish with you.
You have to do both.
Nowadays, conceptual art is quite common, back then it was not -
it was quite shocking to people.
Well, I'm shocked -
I'm shocked, because people are talking about conceptual art
as something that's there and it wasn't.
And how was it received, that work?
Well, I think that people thought...
They didn't know what to make of it.
That's quite a common reaction to your work though, don't you think?
Maybe, but now it's starting to get focused.
It's like all my pieces were in a fog or something and the fog lifted.
'It would seem that it's technology that has guided Ono's work
'out of that fog,
'and it's made her fanciful concepts from the '60s become real.
'When her vision, Parts of a Light House, was presented in 1965
'it was no more than an idea,
'but, in 2007, technology caught up with her imagination
'and it became her most monumental work to date -
'the Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland.
'This colossal column of light employs prisms and 15 lasers
'to shoot light vertically to the heavens.'
Power to the people!
'Another recently-realised artwork
'was inspired by a line from a self-published brochure in 1967.
'It was Yoko's fanciful quest to collect every smile in the world.
'John Lennon's smile was one of the first to be harvested -
'captured by Yoko in this slow motion film from 1968
'as a portrait that moves.'
I first wanted someone to smile and I thought, well, John is a good one,
because he represents the world - so let him do it.
With John smiling, I thought of that as a portrait on the wall
and you see him just sort of like...
You see his face.
And one day you just look and he just smiles.
I thought that would be very, very interesting.
'Now, new media has caught up with Yoko's conceptual idea
'and her quest for smiles has gone global.'
Hi, this is Yoko.
The Smiles film is what I always wanted to do
and now we are doing it and it's great.
And now your Smile has developed into a kind of app and people can upload
their own smiles, so eventually you may get everybody.
The communication media developed so much
so now it can do it in so many ways and I am so thankful.
'Think peace, act peace, spread peace and imagine peace.
'Big kiss. I love you!'
# We are smiling. #
-Oh, you're looking very young.
-That's just what I want to hear.
-You're looking so good.
To The Light is at the Serpentine Gallery in London until the 9th September.
Next, a writer once described as the undisputed master of the new unpleasantness.
Every Martin Amis novel causes a stir. It's an event.
His latest, Lionel Asbo, is no exception.
James Runcie met up with him, but first, we asked Owen Jones, the author of Chavs,
for his take on Amis's latest working class anti-hero.
Lionel Asbo is a no-holds-barred satire of the state of England
and, from the vantage point of Britain's upper-middle-class literati, things look pretty bleak.
The problem is Martin Amis is writing about
a cardboard cut-out of broken Britain,
caricaturing people he is no position to know anything about.
The novel is set in the fictional deprived London Borough of Diston,
where no-one makes it to 60.
Lionel Asbo is a thuggish criminal who wins the Lottery
and is catapulted to instant celebrity.
Throughout, Amis draws on the traditional distinction
between the deserving and the undeserving poor.
Lionel Asbo isn't in his situation because he's thick.
He's in it out of choice.
But Amis also lampoons the so-called "undeserving rich" -
those who supposedly become wealthy without talent
and then spend their new-found dosh in a vulgar or a tacky fashion.
Martin Amis draws from a long tradition of contempt
for the lower orders among privileged liberal writers.
In inter-war Britain, it was the likes of Virginia Woolf, HG Wells
and even George Bernard Shaw who showed contempt for the unwashed masses.
Woolf mused, "The poor have no chance, no manners, no self-control to protect themselves with.
"We have a monopoly of all the generous feelings."
Yes, there are real problems of deprivation
and unemployment in many of our communities.
But the real reasons behind these problems - like deindustrialisation or cuts - are rarely depicted,
and Lionel Asbo's portrait reinforces a one-dimensional image.
'Owen Jones isn't the first person to object to Martin Amis.
'Few authors have proved so divisive.'
Amis is a literary elitist.
He can be snobbish, patronising, infuriating, contemptuous,
and even sexist.
But he is often horribly funny, at times he's a genius,
and he's got one quality that eludes all too many authors.
He cannot write a boring sentence.
'In Money, Amis confronted the Thatcherite '80s
'through narcissistic ad man John Self.
'In postmodern murder mystery London Fields,
'we met sex-mad darts player, Keith Talent.
'His new book is a modern fairy tale, and Amis explores chav culture
'and celebrity obsession through his cigarette-toting villain,
"Every couple of weeks, Lionel got the dogs pissed on Special Brews.
"'Interesting, that,' thought Des.
"In America, evidently, pissed meant angered or pissed off.
"In England, pissed just meant drunk.
"After six cans each of potent malt lager,
"Jeff and Joe were pissed in both senses."
What's the appeal of that kind of literary grotesque?
You push them almost into caricature, they're sort of larger than life.
What's the appeal about doing that?
It's exciting having characters who do things that you would never do.
Like having a violent character.
And, again, it's to tame those violent atavisms that we see all around us.
Reading a novel, you're...
The covers of that novel are like bars of the cage
and you can admire the crocodile and the tiger
with no risk to yourself.
John Updike said once, you know, why do we like monsters in fiction,
why do we like the villains?
And his answer to that was what we like is life.
Some people, some characters are just more vivid, more graphic than others.
Because social realism, it ain't. You're not writing social realism.
What's the point of it, though, what's the point of this satire?
What can satire give you that other forms of fiction can't?
Well, satire is quite difficult to define.
One definition is that it's militant irony.
It's irony brought to the pitch
where you're actually hoping to bring about change.
"For it was his obstinate belief that Diston Town contained
"hidden force of mind - nearly all of it trapped or cross-purposed.
"And how will it go, he often wondered,
"when all the brain-dead awaken?
"When all the Lionels decide to be intelligent?"
Intelligence is one of the themes of the novel, and education,
the idea that people can get their way out of poverty
either through crime or through education.
Is that the nature of the fairy tale you're telling?
That's, well, it goes back to the notion that, you know...
..when we brain-dead awaken, what would happen
if education were as ubiquitous as we'd all like it to be?
There's a great deal of thwarted intelligence in those lives.
Education should be a basic right of any citizen.
Just as health care should be.
So, I mean, if I had to extract an actual proposition from that novel,
it would be to educate people we don't think are intelligent,
but they are. It's there in potentia, in everyone.
"She said, 'I'll make you famous.'
"I said, 'I already am famous.'
"She said, 'Yeah, but famous in the wrong way. You're hated.
"'I'll work on your image and make you loved.'
"She's after me to do an I'm A Superstar.
"Wants me to start a line of clothes. Chav, er...
"Wants me wearing earrings and a big gold chain around me neck.
"And a T-shirt with 'Whatever' on it. Or 'Innit' on it."
Now, you have quite a big pop at celebrity culture
through tabloid newspapers and a satire of tabloids.
Even four or five pages are written in Sun-style journalese.
-Did you have fun with that?
-Yeah, very much.
I can't help thinking I'm better at it than they are.
In the sort of the alliterative, abusive style.
And Lionel gets a girlfriend who's not a million miles away from Katie Price.
-I gather that you read the work of Katie Price.
She's called "Threnody" in inverted commas.
Why are you doing that? It seems quite elitist, all this, it's quite sneery.
Well, snobbery has to start somewhere.
I don't think intellectual snobbery is too reprehensible.
And the amount of attention paid to people
who haven't really got anything to offer is...SHOULD be alarming.
But I suppose you're laying yourself open to the charge
that these are cardboard cut-out characters.
I mean, if you take a writer like Owen Jones,
he's said that you don't actually get to the root causes of why society is as it is.
Why Britain is broken.
Well, no doubt I don't. But that's not my job.
That's for the inexact science of economics and sociology.
I'm not... I'm not bothered about that.
-Because you're a novelist?
I mean, that, that's not my job description, to analyse the causes.
-To analyse anything.
-Is it your job to reveal?
-It's my job to educate.
And to give delight.
"Instruction and delight," said Dryden, three centuries ago.
That's what literature is for. And I think the emphasis hasn't changed.
Now, from the state of the nation
to the so-called festival of the world,
here at a very windy Southbank Centre
which currently is positively festooned, barnacled with works of art
by international contemporary artists.
And, at the centre of it all, they've got their own, rather unusual, school.
But this is a school with a difference.
For one thing, it's in the Hayward Gallery,
and for another, it's not an art school,
but all the classes are run by artists,
which, to me, sounds like the educational equivalent of the lunatics taking over the asylum.
The Wide Open School is a unique experiment in public learning.
For one month, you can come and attend classes, lectures
run by over 100 artists
covering a predictably unpredictable range of subjects.
Today's first lecture is by one man with two names -
Bob and Roberta Smith.
So what is the Wide Open School all about?
Artists aren't a unique breed of people.
We are all autodidacts,
we're all learning, ourselves, all the time,
and the point of the Wide Open School is to flag that up
and I think that is what art is about.
It is saying I want to find out more about the world
and I want to think about it in these ways.
Art makes children powerful.
All schools must be art schools.
Make your own damn art, do not expect me to do it.
My lecture is an active indoctrination on some level.
-This is a public lecture.
-This is a public lecture.
I know you're a broadcaster,
but it's good if you enunciate a little bit more.
Imagine you're Michael Caine or Arthur Smith.
-OK, I'll try that.
-This is a public lecture.
-This is a public lecture.
-That's very good.
Next up, Michael Landy's course in destruction.
Landy's famous for his 2001 work, Break Down,
in which he destroyed each and every one of his own possessions,
including some of my books which were in his library,
so I hope the people who have signed up for his class are ready for anything.
Landy has asked each of them to bring an object of personal significance
that will be discussed and then destroyed.
I've brought my digital radio.
This is a VHS tape which is a documentary about the power of art.
I brought my teacher's planner from last year.
While the workshop on destruction does just what it says on the tin,
not all the classes are quite so easy to understand.
I am a bit nervous about this workshop.
It's run by an Austrian collective called Gelitin
who say they want to turn
the pupil-teacher relationship upside-down, inside out and on its head.
Wish me luck.
'Have you ever had the feeling that you're not entirely welcome?'
-Get these people out...
-Are you part of the workshop? I think...
-Get out. Get out.
Thank you, goodbye.
Goodbye. I've been thrown out!
I think I did something wrong. I don't know what.
'Someone who knows all about teaching conceptual art is Michael Craig-Martin,
'artist and former Professor of Fine Art at Goldsmiths.'
I feel kind of traumatised.
I just went to a Gelitin workshop and they threw me out.
I think it is not the easiest thing to step into
without giving yourself totally to it,
so the whole idea of being an observer of it...
When I was teaching,
I would never have let any camera come near what I was doing.
And do you think that, despite the obviously deliberate kind of anarchic atmosphere
of a lot of these workshops, the chaos of it all -
despite that, actually what comes through for many people attending
will actually be very worthwhile?
The idea of being foolish,
of doing things you don't really know what you're doing,
things that are a little crazy, doing things like that,
there is something you learn from the experience of allowing your mind to go there.
Maybe that's why he chucked me out, because he knew I was just watching.
Maybe if you go through the process,
you learn something in a different way.
And as you clearly don't intend to do that, you are never going to know.
How do you know? I might!
'It's the end of another day at the Wide Open School
'and Michael Landy's workshop have finished their auto-destructive sculpture.'
So it's going to perform for people and then,
hopefully, it'll auto-destruct and die a death.
And what's the point? Communal catharsis?
It's to do with trying to go beyond sculpture,
to make it de-material. That's what I think.
We'll get on with it, then.
That's not very good. It's not very good.
We're going to have to pull some bits off.
Can we film this all over again? Can we start all over again?
This is my career we're talking about.
-I'm going to watch the rest from indoors.
'Well, it is in the nature of experiments that they don't always go to plan,
'and in this case, the art isn't perhaps the point.
'As the old cliche goes, it's the taking part that counts.'
And Wide Open School is at the Hayward Gallery until 11th July.
That's just about it for tonight.
If you're looking for more culture,
try visiting The Space at...
or Freeview HD channel 117.
Next week, director William Friedkin, comedian Tim Minchin
and author Richard Ford.
But, to play us out,
here is the formidable Pina Bausch Dance Company,
who are performing at Sadler's Wells and the Barbican until 9th July.
# If you're blue and you don't know where to go to
# Why don't you go where Harlem sits
# Puttin' on the ritz
# Spangled gowns upon a bevy of high browns
# From down the levee, all misfits
# Puttin' on the ritz
# That's where each and every lulubelle goes
# Ev'ry Thursday evening with her swell beaus
# Rubbing elbows
# Come with me and we'll attend their jubilee
# And see them spend their last two bits
# Puttin' on the ritz
# Come with me and we'll attend their jubilee
# And see them spend their last two bits
# Puttin' on the ritz! #
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd