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Paul McCarthy: "Piccadilly Circus" | Art21 "Exclusive"

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Episode #083: Artist Paul McCarthy describes the improvisational process and performances behind the video work "Piccadilly Circus" (2003). Filmed at an unoccupied London bank before being renovated by Hauser & Wirth gallery in 2002, and shot several months before the start of the Iraq War, the work features costumed players in the roles of President George W. Bush, Osama Bin Laden, and the Queen Mum (in three versions).

Paul McCarthy's video-taped performances and provocative multimedia installations lampoon polite society, ridicule authority, and bombard the viewer with a sensory overload of often sexually-tinged, violent imagery. With irreverent wit, McCarthy often takes aim at cherished American myths and icons—Walt Disney, the Western, and even the Modern Artist—adding a touch of malice to subjects that have been traditionally revered for their innocence or purity. Whether conflating real-world political figures with fantastical characters such as Santa Claus, or treating erotic and abject content with frivolity and charm, McCarthy's work confuses codes, mixes high and low culture, and provokes an analysis of fundamental beliefs.

Learn more about Paul McCarthy: http://www.art21.org/artists/paul-mccarthy

VIDEO | Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Susan Sollins. Camera: Bob Elfstrom. Sound: Doug Dunderdale. Editor: Lizzie Donahue & Paulo Padilha. Artwork Courtesy: Paul McCarthy.