In small and tightly-knit Vancouver, artists reframe the world through a series of sophisticated illusions. By recreating historical moments, staging photos of vernacular scenes, and crafting intricate sculptures that trick the eye, artists reveal how everyday images and moments from the past are not always what they seem. Featuring artists Liz Magor, Stan Douglas, Brian Jungen, and Jeff Wall.

AIRED: September 23, 2016 | 0:55:16

Hi. I'm Claire Danes.

Welcome to the ART21 series

"Art in the Twenty-First Century."

ART21 travels the globe to present some

of the most innovative artists of our time.

Artists today influence how we see the world

and how creativity can transform society.

This episode features Vancouver,

where Liz Magor, Stan Douglas,

Brian Jungen, and Jeff Wall reveal

that everyday images and moments from the past

are not always what they seem.

Here is "Art in the Twenty-First Century."

Magor: So someone comes to Canada.

They think Canada is snow and freedom

and nature.

The truth is more complex.

Douglas: Well, in Vancouver, the artists

make art for each other.

Wall: There are no rules in how to be an artist.

Jungen: The artist declares what

an artwork is.

So what makes an artist?

That's another question.

Ha ha ha!

Magor: What I like about Vancouver is the fact

that it's on the edge of the continent.

If I look west, I know it's empty.

I call it breathing space.

I live on the Eastside, which is very industrial.

Big ships come in and get loaded up

with containers.

I like that feeling of the world coming and going.

Vancouver is an entirely and completely different place

than it was when I was a child,

and Coal Harbour especially was a wild, filthy, muddy,

cranky, beautiful place.

Then by the time I came back to look at it

for this public art project,

all that was erased,

and all these places that people lived

in squatter shacks

or lived in little crappy float houses,

all of it was gone, so I built

this little wooden building,

put it on 4 pilings that are tilted because I wanted it

at that moment of movement.

I wanted it to be alive.

Then we sent it to a foundry,

and they cast every piece separately.

Your first view is that it's a pretty ordinary

piece of woodwork, but if you go up to it

and you see that it's aluminum, you realize

that it's an extraordinary piece

of foundry work.

So that flip is in the manufacture.

You think one thing "So simple, so dismissible."

Then you realize another thing.

You think, "How remarkable."

With "LightShed," I worked consciously

about keeping the past alive, taking an old thing

and keeping it vivacious,

keeping a complex tapestry of stuff in the world.

I live not far from my studio.

I take my bike.

The studio is my priority

over everything else.

I try to get here every day so that I can follow

the continuity of what happened the day before.

Often I'm here all day, you know, 8 hours,

trying to stay focused.

I'm seeking that place where my brain stops

spinning around and stops wanting things that

I don't have so that I can follow this very faint thread

that I'm laying down as to what

each sculpture is supposed to be.

The objects come first, and objects flow

through systems.

We use them, we waste them, we wear them out,

and then it comes out the other end.

They call it the waste stream.

I'm not an animist, but I do feel the objects

that have been in the world for a while,

they've got all this stuff in them that

comes out.

Gloves are interesting because they're quite

complicated copies of the anatomy.

They're very easy to fetishize,

and I'm not the only person who has fetishized a glove.

Casting is like photography in that you

have the real, the actual.

Then you make an impression of it,

which you call a negative.

Then you pour into that negative some system

of making positive, and then you have a copy

of the real.

So if there's a trapped air there and I demold it,

then there'd be a bubble in the thumb,

for example.

It's my favorite part.

I like the color.

I like the creaminess of it.

It feels a bit like playing with your food.

We all love that, and, um, I'm now

so accustomed to trying to kill air that it's

like ait's like a game on a computer.

This is my computer game, to kill bubbles.

Making a mold, doing all this process to that

thing that I've picked up,

in all the slowness of it is how I kind of get to know it.

So, in fact, the slowness of this process

serves the slowness of my intellectual awareness.

Demolding is like opening a present.


Oh, it's good. It's got a few air bubbles here.

You know the image you're going to get,

but it's always a surprise.

My main talent is my ability to

pay attention.

There are many things in the world that live

in this nether zone, this nonzone,

this not-needed zone, and so I pay attention

to these things, and through that effort,

I'll change their status, I'll bring

I'll resurrect them from the dead

and bring them up into this quite

a high-status activity that I'm involved in

of turning them into a sculpture.

There's a big process of me making it.

I want a big process of looking, too.

I'm not sending a message.

I'm creating an experience for looking.

Objects when they're in their heyday, they

arrive in our life with a bit of celebration.

If you're in a really pretentious store,

they make a bit sort of theatrical event

of wrapping up your purchase.

They fold it, then they wrap it,

and they put a sticker with their logo on it,

and then they carefully lift that as though it's

a little premature baby, and they put it into the box.

Inside that box is some sweater that's been

mass-produced, but this gift,

this offering is

they mimic a personal transaction

between two people who care about each other.

Douglas fir trees grow hundreds and hundreds

of feet tall, and they grow

for hundreds of years, and at one point,

that was everywhere here.

They were a big source of the wealth

of British Columbia.

They still are.

There's a big logging industry.

So I made this proposal for this column.

I don't call it a tree. I call it a column.

It's 100 feet tall, 5 feet in diameter,

and it's made of panels that are cast.

Vancouver today is developing very quickly,

and it's sort of like a gold rush

for condominium building.

Each development is supposed to have

a public art component.

You want to find a way to make something that

is for that site but is also a good work of art.

That's the hard part.

Magor: I'm gonna try it there.

Do you want me to hold onto the other side?

No. OK.

Magor, voice-over: In 1968, I was 20 years old.

I went for two years to New York to study design,

and I started going to galleries.

That looks about right.

Woman: I would just say we put them all up,

and then All right.

and then we consider Yeah.

Magor, voice-over: So there were lots of times

in galleries where I got this feeling of focus.

It's like feeling a muscle of attention

and observation that so I thought art

isis interesting.

Art is interesting, but I didn't quite think

I was gonna do it.


But when I dropped out of the design school

and came back to Vancouver, I was hanging

around with a lot of artists.

They were all guys.

They were all painters, guy painters,

and so I worked alongside my friends, watching them.

They were making real art.

I was making little things.

Then I started to focus on them more till they

became more interesting and more complex.

Maybe, uh, 4 inches this way towards me.

I think that's a good place...

Magor, voice-over: They started to rival

the kind of paintings that my friends were doing.

I don't even remember my first exhibition here

except that you had just opened

the gallery, right?

You were myyou were the first solo show.

Was I? Yeah.

I mean, coming up as an artist, like, you

you were just wildly important to me

and my friends.

My friends at least are abuzz that you're here.

Magor: All these below-the-radar impulses that

I'm looking for all the time, these are things

that exist in our daily life,

and they are with us.

We wake up with these small worries and these

small concerns.

One of those worries or anxieties is the stuff

that you have around you.

"Can I pay for it" is a problem,

but once you get it, then there's the storage problems,

maintenance problems, dusting.

Maintaining the conditions that are good

for this kind of not very logical,

not rational, uncalled fornobody's asking me

to do this.

I'm barely asking me to do this,

so to maintain that over years, I've really tried to overlook

the relationship between my making of something

and its journey out to exhibition.

I don't want images of people liking

or not liking.

I don't want to know about it.

I would be surprised if 9b 0of the artists you

talk to don't say, "Death really interests me."

Ha ha!


Part of the work of being an artist is that

you are always contemplating

the beginning of something and the end of something.

There's a whole bunch of births and deaths

every day in the studio.

Some people sort of die before they do die.

They die while they're still alive, so you know

a question is is there life before death?

That's really the question.

So if I look at the different choices

you have of how to spend your life,

it seems interesting to find a way where you hire yourself

not quite hire yourself where you give

yourself your own program.

I'm doing my own assignments.

That's my definition of art actually.

Art isn't a material, it's not a medium,

it's not a certain product.

It is the choices I've been able to make.

[Rain falling]

Douglas: Hogan's Alley was always thought to be

a place of vice, a place of urban blight,

and so the city council always had it

on their eye for a place to demolish.

[Man whistling]

[Railroad crossing signal clanging]

[Jazz playing on radio]

Douglas: It got a reputation as being

a black neighborhood, even though really it

was a mixed black, Italian, and Chinese neighborhood,

but it got that reputation from all

the black people that used to hang out here.

I'm an artist, and history is one thing

I use to make what I make.

That white building is something called Vie's Chicken Shack,

where a lot of jazz musicians

used to go after playing downtown Vancouver.

They weren't allowed to drink in the clubs

where they played, so they'd come here, uh, to have

chicken and to party.

[Jazz playing]

Man: Hey, Roy.

Roy: How do, buddy?

Heh heh heh. You back in town.

Just got back last night.

Douglas: This is a piece

of interactive storytelling

you can download to your phone

and actually play like a game.

As best we could, we tried to make

a historically accurate representation based

on public record.

Here's the Italian bootlegger.

[Man humming]

[Bell dings]

Here was a Chinese brothel.

Woman: How much you pay your girls?

Different woman: Hmm. I'm not hiring.

Douglas: I make my work so I can see it.

One major function of art is to allow us to

see things we think we know in a different way.

My first job after high school was as an usher.

My second job after high school was, um, as DJ.

I was the first guy to play hip-hop in,

umin Vancouver.

I came to art late in life.

I was more interested in theater.

I realized early on that in Vancouver these

TV shows were being made, these movies were being made,

so I could use the apparatus of cinema

and TV to make my work.

[Indistinct chatter]

Douglas, voice-over: The last 10 years or so, I've made

these sort of very elaborate, very free

remakes of other works.

I was researching the post-War period

in Vancouver and realized from the images

I was seeing that Vancouver's part

of this film noir world.

In "Helen Lawrence," we're seeing two things

simultaneously all the time, the actors onstage

and the cinematic image of the actors on the scrim.

At first, it's very confusing...

What's your name?

but eventually, you learn to watch

two things simultaneously.

If I asked you to do a little something for me,

you think you could do it, no questions asked,

on, the, uh, QT?

Douglas: We made virtual sets.

We built the entire neighborhood

of Hogan's Alley.

Built two entire floors of the Hotel Vancouver.

No. Take a walk!

Come on. Get out of here.

Douglas: We have the actors on a blue screen stage.

They're being filmed by cameras,

and the because we're in a blue background,

that can be taken away digitally like with the weatherman on TV,

and another background can be, uh, inserted behind them.

What is happening is we're making this thing live.

The cast is making a film in real time every night.

Please don't spoil my fun.

I haven't had much lately.

I think I'll join you.

You'll probably need a double.

Douglas: "Helen Lawrence" came from an epiphany I had

about film noir.

Somehow, the behavior of people in film noir was

based on the trauma of war.

The tough guys and femme fatales,

they're actually desperate.

They've done things they're not proud of.

Spare a cigarette, hon?

Douglas: Killed people, seen people die around them.

To help us all out, you...

Douglas: These themes of trauma, these are things

which I go back to again and again.

I don't know why.

You know, I think you would have been happy if

I never came back.

Douglas: The fact that we can't really

understand each other, that we're kind of

locked inside our brains.

This is something which I take

as a starting point.

So behind me is the intersection

of Abbott and Cordova.

Uh, that's the the setting for my,

uhmy photograph, uh, "Abbott and Cordova,"

but probably just above that "P" where

the windows open is more or less the vantage point

of, umof my image.

In the 1960s and early seventies,

there were many hippies in Vancouver, so they

decided to have a festival, and the cops didn't like this.

Often, with thesethese works where I'm staging

the photographs, there's obviously documentation

of that moment.

These documents do tell a story,

but they're kind of partial.

What I want to do is to be able to condense these ideas.

We had to build a set.

We needed a lot of light to make that piece.

Almost always my works are

allegories of the present, as well.

That event made this neighborhood

what it is today.

After that event happened, the city's

interest in the neighborhood declined.

There was a policy of containing drug use,

vice, and poverty, uh, in this neighborhood.

My approach to looking at historical events is

that historical events always have

within themselves the possibility of having

been something else.

And the tension between different forces at play

should not be forgotten.

I often depict minor histories,

but I always try to depict a local symptom

of a global condition.

Man: So we're working on the soundtrack

for a new video installation piece,

and this particular piece has, uh, 6 video screens.

And each screen will have a pair of speakers,

so making 8 speakers, which is what we've set up here.

Smith, voice-over: They're just trying to get

a sense of how all the sounds work together

in the space.

[Door opens]

Smith: This one is called "The Secret Agent."

[Door opens]

It's completely different than anything

that we've ever done before.

That will be exciting, but it's also quite

complicated in terms of the logistics

of how are we gonna mount this.

Man: Blow up the Marconi installation

at Sesimbra.

Courtemanche: We'll get a miniature version

of it up and running in Stan's studio

for a while.

Man: What are you supposed to be anyway,

anarchist, desperate communist?

Different man: Anarchist.

Smith: It plays back as a computer program,

and so then we always run them for extended

periods of time so that we know that they're

stable for an exhibition.

Douglas: "The Secret Agent" was based on the notion

of terrorism, which we're very concerned about

these days, but it's been around for a long time.

"The Secret Agent" was the first literary depiction of terrorism,

but it was depicting anarchists who were active

in the late 19th century.

Man: A man was blown up at Sesimbra this morning.

Douglas: The terrorists I was looking at are

more based in the 1970s, so this idea

of, uh, taking an existing narrative

and restaging it in a way that reveals some

hidden content there or takes you

to a different context is something that has been

a very huge, uh, source of inspiration for me.

Two of these are backwards.

One should be backwards, right?

Let's take a look.

It may just be a little bit out.

Yeah, sure, OK.

Man: I have nothing special to tell you.

You summoned me.

This one should go a bit more to the right, I think, too.

Hold that.

[Speaks foreign language]

[Indistinct chatter]

Man: Blow up the Marconi installation

at Sesimbra.

Douglas: In "Secret Agent," there are 6 screens playing.

Always at least two are playing simultaneously.

There's more going on than you can actually

pay attention to.

This kind of confusion is part of everyday life

where we're not quite sure what's gonna happen.

Man: What are you supposed to be anyway,

anarchist, desperate communist?

Douglas: In these works, a kind of parallax happens.

We see stereo vision through parallax.

Our left eye and our right eye allow us to

see the same subject from slightly different

points of view.

This allows us to take in the two ideas simultaneously.

So the narrative of "The Secret Agent,"

if you think about what that meant

in the 19th century, think about what that meant

in the 1970s, this is a parallax

through which we can view the same story

in different ways.

And when I walk in a crowd,

I never let go of this.

A squeeze actuates the detonator.

Douglas: And these things of course relate

to what we have now.

You see in a very real sense the consequence

of terrorism, of somebody saying

to somebody else, "I'm better than you.

"I know the way you should live so much so

"that your life matters less

than my act."

A few weeks after it premiered,

this terrorist bombing took place in Paris

from people who were based inuh,

in and around Brussels.

The show was shut down for many days

because of terrorist fears.

History does not repeat itself.

Things do come back, symptoms do recur,

but they often recur because what caused it

in the first place never actually went away.

In my work, I want to go back to look at these

possibilities of what if did not work

out the way it did?

So looking forward, looking back, I always

want to consider that, uh, the thing we have is

not necessary.

It's not the only way things could possibly be.

Jungen: I didn't grow up on the coast.

I really like being by the ocean,

but I like to go visit it and then go away again.

When I lived on the coast, I was very influenced

by the artwork of the First Nations

on the coast, and I was interested

in how something very specific like

the coastal motifs and imagery moved to being

something that was really associated

with the whole province.

I had heard that the last killer whale was

leaving the Vancouver Aquarium, so I wanted to go

film her, and that's when I kind of stumbled

upon what used to be a big industry,

the whaling industry on the west coast.

The imagery of the whale was pretty widespread

across maritime native cultures.

When I made the first one, all that kind

of came together.

Working with those chairs, I left enough

clues that people could tell what they were.

You can buy those chairs anywhere,

and they're cheap.

Kind of switch that happens, that's

the spark, right, that gets people interested.

If you ask any Native Indian person "Where are you from?"

they wouldn't really say the city they happened

to be living in.

They would say where their blood relations are.

I'm Dane-zaa, so that is a very specific part

of the country.

But I moved to Vancouver when I was 18

to go to art school, and that was

the first time I lived in a city.

I love the opportunities and the culture

around you when you're in a city,

but I prefer to live out here.

It's nice to see all this sage blooming, eh?

My childhood was spent on a really large cattle ranch,

so when I was a little kid,

I would spend a lot of time out in the forest

with the dogs.

They were kind of like my guardians.

Ed's a northern Alberta mutt.

He's the boss of this place in some ways.

Like, we all listen to Ed.

So, yeah, that's across the road there,

those pastures are part of the property and up there

on the hillside and up there, too.

My ancestors were promised they could

either live on reserve, or they would be given land,

but none of it was honored.

When I started working with shoes

in the nineties, I went into Niketown.

They had sneakers of theirs in glass vitrines,

and I thought that was so strange.

I started to make connections between

the commodification of those shoes and the same thing

that's happened to Native art.

And then there was just kind of a strange

coincidence that the color schemes

and designs looked very similar

to northwest coast masks.

There was this kind of illicit thrill I got

by buying these Air Jordans and, like, immediately

starting to kind of cut them up and stuff.

So, yeah, and that was my first kind of foray

into making objects.

Tch, tch.

I'm a pretty quiet person.

Jungen, voice-over: I was kind of raised

around cowboy culture, so there's a lot

of aggression, but it's not really

how I approach the world.

That's right. Attaboy.

Jungen, voice-over: So I didn't have much access

to culture growing up in the north, so I had,

like, one television station, A.M. radio,

that kind of thing.

My folks died when I was 7, so I just kind

of like buried myself in thesemy imagination.

I used to make artwork because I thought I

could hide behind it,

and that turned out not to be the case.

My artwork became so tied up with my identity,

especially as Native Canadian,

that it was almost impossible to talk bout my artwork

without my identity.

An uncle of mine showed me how to make drums years ago,

and I'm not a very good musician,

but whenever I'm home, like, my cousins will

kind of thrust a drum at me to, like,

participate, and it's great.

I love it, but I wanted to make some of my own.

I've always also really liked modern furniture.

So I kind of used those chairs to make

these drums, give them a life other than utilitarian

furniture, right?

Kind of give them a voice.

Yeah, II like vehicles.

I have a nice Impala now.

It's my summer car really.

I cruise around in that.

When I was an adolescent and into my 20s,

I had to figure out who I was and kind of come out

of the closet,

but that's really not an issue anymore.

I think gay culture's kind of mainstream...

and I never really fit into that

stereotype anyways.

My family are hunters.

It's very common in Canada, but a lot

of my family have freezers to keep moose meat in,

and a lot of the times, they're outside.

I was visiting family, and I started making

these temporary sculptures and sticking

them on top of the freezers because they

were like the perfect pedestal,

and I liked kind of seeing that, like, some people would

justthey thought, "Who put all this

crap on here?"

And other people, they would look at it

and say, "Oh, that's an artwork, right?"

So I decided to take that into the studio.

I like using things people can recognize

that they see around them every day.

[Sewing machine running]

This new series I just started, it's gonna be shown

in Vancouver in January.

I wanted to revisit the material because

it's been about 10 years, and I wanted to do it

in a new way.

When I first made them, I was just kind

of slowly taking them apart piece by piece,

and now I just am much more fluid with it.

Oh, there are like kind of horns.

[Saw whirring]

I work very intuitively.

We just tighten everything up and then

start cutting and see what happens.

II don't have an idea of what it's gonna look

like in my head, so it will be finished

when it feels finished.

Yeah, I lost it.

Jungen, voice-over: You know, I always say to myself,

"I'm not gonna work like this anymore,

and things are gonna be done weeks ahead of the opening,"

but I guess a part of me still likes the kind

of intensity of working down to the wire.

This will be attached?

Have you figured out how that's gonna work?

No. No, no.



Well, hope for the best.

Ha ha ha!

Jungen: I wanted to make these ones more abstract.

I think when I made the first ones I was

interested in referencing them to what

people thought native art is.

Now I've kind of moved away from that.

And some of these just feel like 20th century

modern sculpture.

I'm involved in a contemporary art community

that is very exclusive.

I don't know. There's all different sorts of art worlds.

There's a whole Native American art world.

I kind of have a bit of a hand in that.

If I hadn't gone to art school,

if my parents hadn't died,

I probably would have wound up

working on the family farm

and making art in secret.

Wall: I'm always searching for that picture.

That's what I do.

I'm always looking for that picture.

Some people call it subject.

I just call it a starting point.

It's the same thing. Something comes up.

For example, right outside this building

in 2001, I came out that door,

and 3 or 4 people carrying their packages and bags

trundled by.

If I'd had a camera, I would have shot it,

but that's not how I do things, so I knew that

I needed to make a reconstruction

of the event, and I walked down two blocks

to where the overpass is just here,

saw the sloping road and the sky,

and I thought, "I'll do it there."

And I would have never even known I wanted to

make it till I saw that thing happen,

so it's an accident.

The accident connects to me something I wasn't

connected to before.

Could be seeing a picture like,

for example, when I did "The Sudden Gust of Wind"

and I saw this Hokusai print in an art book.

It immediately suggested this could be done again.

You know, I have to wait for things to happen,

and once that occurs, then I have to

make something.

Supposing somebody had a carton of milk and he

just made the wrong gesture and it all came

splurting out.

That could easily happen.

Everyone's spilled milk, but I found a way to

make it look much more fascinating then

an ordinary spillage.

I've known the city since I was born.

I've lived here most of my life,

and I think when you are from a place,

you neither like or hate it.

You know a lot.

You've been through a lot,

so I have mixed feelings about Vancouver,

and I feel like when I'm working here I'm working

out of those feelings...

and I can never really tell what's got

the upper hand at any given moment.

And I'd like to think that somehow

the pictures I've done have that in them.

I still don't really know why I'm not a painter.

I stopped painting around 1964 when I

was about 19 or 20, the mid-sixties, that

was just the beginning of really the explosion

of all the kind of new alternative kinds of art,

things like conceptual art,

and for whatever reasons, Vancouver was

a very tuned in place at that time.

So I got deflected, you know, away from being

a painter with a studio, which I had at the age

of 15, to trying other things.

It seemed to me when I really got serious

about photography that there was potential energies

inside of the medium that weren't really being realized.

That had to do with the scale of the picture,

and it seemed to me there was simply no

technical reason why photography couldn't

become bigger.

Photographs have a beautiful, molecular,

granular surface that both shows itself

and hides itself in the image it makes,

so there are qualities that are revealed in photography

when it gets larger.

[Indistinct chatter]

After having seen some advertisements

backlighted, I thought, "OK. I'll try

"the backlighted.

"It's kind of interesting.

"It has a kind of luminosity that's

really different."

So then I just started using it, and it worked.

It created an object, and the object was sort

of, you know, emphatic.

There's no real rules aboutfor me at least

how I should proceed, so sometimes, I build replicas...

but when you start building a replica, it can

get really exciting and technically interesting

and artistically very absorbing

to make that thing.

Wall: Where are you looking?

My hand, my thumb.

Look at Andrew's face.

Now. Yeah, that's it.

Just like that. Oh, that's good.

Hold it. Go.




Wall, voice-over: Nothing in my pictures is fake.

Everything that you see happening is really happening.

Wall: Action.

[Camera clicks, flash pops]

Good one.

[Camera clicks, flash pops]


Wall, voice-over: There's really no difference

between capturing a gesture by accident

and capturing a gesture by design,

so it's not really possible to have fakery

in photography, not really.

I don't think it's very easy to practice

any art form very well, so there's no reason

why photography should be easy.

It's easy to click the shutter.

But they're gonna do a whole run-through first.

So I need you guys on your marks just to

double-check all the marks before we start.

Wall, voice-over: But bringing things

together, however you do it, is always difficult

because the standards are high.

Wall: You're standing in a way that doesn't make

you look very tough.

Man: OK.

Make yourself look like someone who's ready to

do something bad.


Wall, voice-over: I think working

with performers, it's always

very collaborative.

Look it yourself if you want to see yourself up close.

Wall, voice-over: They always give me things

that I didn't even know I wanted from them.

Looks good out here.

You look like a sculpture

by Michelangelo right now.

Ha ha ha!

Which is great.

Wall: Action.

[Camera clicks]


Let's do another one.



Wall, voice-over: I've learned that in order to

do what I like to do I need to have

an open-ended schedule.

It could take 5 days, could take 10 days,

it could take 20 days.

I don't really know.

You can shoot hundreds of pictures of the same thing,

and one of them's always different

from all the others.

It just is the way it goes, and that picture

discloses something that wasn't in the plan.

It was based on things I'd seen

from the bringing of a person under the control

of others to a place, and you see that all

over the news.

That doesn't happen till discussion has come

to an end, and so I added something.

He talks.

And the second thing that happens is

the other one listens.

Neither of those things is likely to happen

in that situation.

Talking is great in photography because it

can't be captured.

It's the elusive element, and that shows

you the limits of the art form you're in.

I love that about it.

It always escapes.

Pictures can never narrate.

They can only imply a narrative,

but they can never deliver it.

So what happens is when the viewer's having that

experience what they're really doing is writing

the story.

They're intuiting a narrative

for themselves, which will not be the same

narrative for everybody.

Well, the title of that picture is

"Daybreak on an Olive Farm in the Negev, Israel."

The picture included the Bedouin farm workers,

the olive grove,

and one of the biggest prisons in Israel.

So it was a great subject of many things.

Some sleeping under the stars, who were

probably poor, and others sleeping

in incarceration.

Who knows what they are, and there could be

thousands of them there.

Probably I identify with those kind of people

in some way, and I think I identify

with all the people I photograph in some way.

So I think artistically a subject has no connection

to the viewer unless the picture

creates the connection by its artistry,

by its beauty.

So let's say you come into the gallery and you

see a picture of a homeless person

and you experience it in a way you hadn't experienced

it before because you hadn't seen it in that

picture before.

Then you will know that the beauty

of that picture was caused by that person somehow,

and as soon as you realize that that

subject can cause that experience,

you've changed your own relation to that subject.

That's the social value of art, that it does

that not by convincing you of anything,

telling you you should do this,

but by giving you an experience

or creating an experience

that itself, yeah, alters something.

The main stream of my work has been

a kind of realism because it's devoted to contemplating

photography as a phenomenon,

but I don't want to be obliged to a be a reporter

all the time, even a pseudoreporter.

Works of pictorial art have to be something

that can be looked at endlessly.

Supposing it flashed into my mind this image

of the ocean for no reason.

Like a daydream or a moment of imagination.

When you have flashes like that, they only

last just an amazingly short time,

and they're gone, but you remember them.

They set off a photographic possibility.

For me, there's something called a picture

that is there all the time.

I'm always searching for that picture,

the next one.

Announcer: To learn more about ART21

and our educational resources, please visit us online


"Art in the Twenty-First Century,"

season 8 is available on DVD.

To order, visit

or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS.

This series is also available

for download on iTunes.


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