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

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    Paul McCarthy: "Piccadilly Circus"
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    I questioned it, in the beginning, as to whether to do it.
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    Like, too didactic. Stay away from it. Too political. Stay away from it.
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    Bin Laden, Bush, Queen... It was too specific.
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    These are like puppets, you know.
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    Hauser and Wirth--the gallery--was looking to...
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    Start a gallery in London, and they had some buildings they were looking at.
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    I was in London, and they invited me to go look at one building they were looking at.
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    And it was this bank in Piccadilly. It had been an operating bank, I think, up until a few years before that.
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    So, the teller windows were all there, everything was in place.
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    And I went to see it one night. It had a balcony, and I was kind of standing at the balcony.
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    I said, "Wow it would be great to shoot a film or a video in this building."
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    I'm interested in how the camera sees it and what the forms are.
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    One way I see it is really quite beautiful. In another way, there's certain revulsion of smashing food.
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    The drawer gets completely caked with food, and it was never taken out of the drawer, and later rots.
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    Like in one layer, I kind of know that it creates a reaction. In another way, it's quite beautiful, the rotting food, you know.
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    This thing of.. Films made like play. You know, like kids putting on plays.
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    Or films made that way. You just go "Okay, I'll be the Queen, you be Bush. Okay, we're going to have a party now."
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    That kind of direction, as opposed to a scripted, constructed, very loose, very much like pretend-and-play.
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    I knew that this part where Bush would cut his head, you know, was all going to happen. I knew that would take place.
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    And I knew the Queens would paint. But in a way I didn't know...
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    It was just like an improvisation between these people with the paint and the knives and the cutting,
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    And that that would go on for a period of time, right.
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    I knew, by putting myself and these three people that I knew in that situation, they would respond and improvise off of each other.
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    And I knew by putting certain things in the room to give them to use, they would feed off of all that.
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    [smothered sound]... Don't move!
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    I don't know whether I was looking for truth in there. I was just building a piece.
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    I was making a work of art.
Paul McCarthy: "Piccadilly Circus" | Art21 "Exclusive"

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.

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Jonathan Munar edited English subtitles for Paul McCarthy: "Piccadilly Circus" | Art21 "Exclusive"
cwang91 added a translation

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