Videos on the arts, featuring the artists
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Meet legendary playwright Dario Fo, who here tells the intriguing story of how he became a storyteller and how he revolutionized theatre by “destroying the fourth wall” – encouraging his audience not to be voyeurs but to participate.
Nobel Prize recipient Dario Fo is one of the most widely performed contemporary playwrights and a well-known social critic. The 89-year-old Italian here bluntly shares his opinion about today’s corrupted Italy and theatre’s crucial role in presenting the truth.
“When you start as a poet it makes you aware of how few words are needed to bring ideas from one mind to another.” Icelandic writer Sjón is a word-minimalist. Watch him explain why he gives his readers a minimum of words to work from.
Acclaimed American novelist Philipp Meyer has had many failed attempts at writing, but feels lucky that he got to discover his literary voice in private. He here shares why he writes and what keeps him going: “It’s an animal drive to write or make art.”
“I was carried into the woods in a packsack when I was six months old.” Canadian Man Booker Prize winning author Margaret Atwood here describes her special relationship to the woods, and her first overwhelming meeting with the city.
We attended a moving and playful literary summit between two great novelists from Cuba and China, who met for the first time on stage. Watch Yan Lianke and Leonardo Padura discuss their views and perception of each other’s socialist countries.
Distinguished book designer Irma Boom makes miniature versions of her books in an almost architectural manner. Watch her demonstrate and discuss these unique miniature books, which are among the world’s smallest.
“I think that my fate cannot be separated from literature.” Meet award-winning Yan Lianke – one of China’s greatest novelists – who here shares the story of his balancing act in relation to Chinese censorship and how he has risked his life in order to write.
“One’s eye changes things. One’s eye makes things come alive.” Experience the much-admired Danish poet, writer and film director Jørgen Leth in this video where he reads one of his poems and compares writing poetry to performing alchemy.
“I’ll only do the job if it’s Chanel.” Such was the feted book designer Irma Boom’s response to the enigmatic people, who contacted her about a secret project. She here shares the story of her engrossing white book that pays tribute to Chanel No. 5.
“Memory is what makes us who we are,” says Kenyan Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o – a frequent contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature – in this video about how colonizers sought to erase the memories of the natives by severing their linguistic connections.
“Now they’ve let Inger die.” In this moving video the winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature, Herta Müller, talks about her then recently deceased colleague and friend, Danish writer Inger Christensen, whom Müller feels deserved the prestigious prize.
Watch as the award-winning Irish writer Colm Tóibín shares his thoughts on Giacometti’s iconic ‘Homme qui marche’. A timeless and inspirational sculpture, which has been interpreted as a wish to come to terms with the Second World War.
Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Richard Ford here defends his usage of the word ‘negro’ and unflinchingly states that race relations in the U.S. will only improve if we stop “tippy-toeing around each other for fear that we’ll give somebody alarm.”
Joyce Carol Oates – one of the most accomplished living American authors – here shares her two very different approaches to writing and argues that writing is in fact “a somewhat abnormal state.”
Graphic designer Irma Boom is the woman behind some of the most stunning books to have been published in the last decade. Watch the internationally acclaimed icon of Dutch design discuss her uncompromising design method.
“You will always have this conflict between what you want to say, and what you could say.” Watch Egyptian novelist Alaa al-Aswany on how writing is about overcoming obstacles, and the significance a blank page can potentially have in Egypt.
Hans Magnus Enzensberger is considered an institution in German intellectual life with a great and diverse literary output. Watch the celebrated author in this video interview about digital surveillance and being an analogue person.
“Everyone has a novel inside. Not everyone writes that novel, thank goodness.” Sit back and enjoy this honest and in-depth interview with one of Europe’s great socially engaged intellectuals – German author Hans Magnus Enzensberger.
“If you’re skiing downhill, and you stop in the middle of it to think: How am I doing this? You’ll fall over,” says award-winning author Margaret Atwood in this video about beginning a book and the elusive flow of writing.
“Pronouns© have severe side effects.” Watch one of Denmark’s most thrilling poets, Morten Søndergaard, discuss his fascinating and humorous project ‘Wordpharmacy’, which takes grammar to a new level by combining it with medicine.
“The blank page is sort of a slightly irritating boss.” English David Mitchell, author of the best-selling novel ‘Cloud Atlas’, here explains why it’s okay to doodle if you’re stuck, and how pushing yourself is the ultimate way of moving your novel forward.
“The goal always is to write.” American Philipp Meyer – author of the bestselling novel ‘The Son’ – reveals why he doesn’t believe that a ‘writer’s block’ exists, and how starting a novel is a matter of drowning out your inner critic.
Award-winning Icelandic writer and poet Sjón here humorously contemplates the complex relationship between the coloniser and the colonised – Denmark and Iceland – and how being Icelandic has shaped him as a writer.
“I make sure I never face a blank page.” American author Lydia Davis – recognized as one of the innovators of contemporary American fiction – here shares how she deals with ‘the blank page’ by only going to it when she has something to fill it with.
“The role of literature is to raise questions.” In this in-depth interview, the charismatic Egyptian novelist Alaa al-Aswany shares his thoughts on writing about sex, his close relationship to his novel characters and the impact of literature on history.
Award-winning writer Joyce Carol Oates has no fear of the notorious ‘blank page’, as she simply never faces it: “By the time I come to a blank page, I have many, many things to say.” Find out why in this video.
The godfather of American avant-garde cinema, filmmaker and poet Jonas Mekas, whom we met in his Brooklyn-home, has a clear piece of advice for aspiring filmmakers: “Don’t go to film school. Get a camera.”
“Filling the blank page is agony.” The German literary “wunderkind” Daniel Kehlmann, author of the international bestseller ‘Measuring the World’, puts it thus clearly in this interview on the difficult beginning of a novel.
Herbjørg Wassmo, one of Norway’s best-selling authors, is unambiguous in her advice to aspiring writers when she emphasises that it quite simply takes hard work to achieve your goals: “Write, write, write!”
“Writing isn’t therapy – it’s a matter of life or death. It’s more important than therapy – it’s why I’m here.” Norwegian novelist Herbjørg Wassmo – author of ‘Dina’s Book’ – here shares the moving story of how writing helped her survive a painful childhood.
Meet Lydia Davis, one of the most important short story writers in America today. She reads from her prose and talks about her family background, her influences, her struggle to find her literary form and how her stories emerge from her personal life.
Chart-topping English novelist and “word-nerd” David Mitchell, commended for the novel ‘Cloud Atlas’, here explains why he likes to experiment and strives to avoid repetition: “If my books are my children, then I want them to have distinct personalities.”
“Politics are constantly shaping literary practices.” Pioneering and conceptually challenging American poet Juliana Spahr here ponders on the tenuous, ever-changing overlap between poetry and politics.
“The rhythm of music has been the biggest influence on my writing – it’s not Wordsworth, it’s Ray Charles.” Michael Ondaatje, one of Canada’s greatest authors, on how music and writing are so connected that they must sometimes be separated.
Man Booker Prize winner Michael Ondaatje, widely known for the novel ‘The English Patient’, here contemplates how his novels always start with a landscape and end with a conversation. It’s through these different voices that his stories truly come alive.
“The problem of being Superman was that everybody else was so slow.” Enjoy this video of Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Jeffrey Eugenides reading a hilarious section from his novel ’The Marriage Plot’.
Best-selling Italian novelist Umberto Eco here advises aspiring writers not to take themselves too seriously, but to go step by step and remember that: “You’re 10 per cent inspiration and 90 per cent perspiration.”
The unsurpassed Swedish playwright Lars Norén grew up in a home that felt “radically unsafe.” In this rare interview he traces his writing back to his childhood experiences: “They could've locked me in the basement at age 11 because I had so much material.”
“Quickly and awkwardly, I think is how I shall read.” Enjoy this evocative video in which Northern Irish poet and novelist Nick Laird reads from a selection of his powerful and commended poetry collections.
Novelist Colum McCann writes in a cupboard by choice. Watch the charming Irishman discuss with great playfulness how writers are constantly faced with improbable but necessary tasks: “It’s like trying to solve a problem in complex mathematics.”
“American history has a kind of tragic cyclical nature to it.” A thought-provoking interview with American writer Joyce Carol Oates, who ponders on how the concept of ‘devils’ has always been predominant in American society.
Klaus Rifbjerg (1931-2015) is one of the great masters of Danish literature. In this deeply personal and moving interview from 2013, the writer looks back on his life and literary career, reflecting on what it means to age – and to die.
Lars Norén is widely regarded as the greatest contemporary Swedish playwright. We paid him an exclusive visit at his apartment in Stockholm to hear his advice for aspiring writers.
Icelandic author and European intellectual Einar Már Gudmundsson – a widely known social commentator – muses on how storytelling has always played an important role in Icelandic society manifesting history and keeping memory alive.
British writer Ian McEwan shares amusing insider information about the British intelligence agency MI5 and MI6, which was given to him by the legendary author of espionage novels and former spy, John le Carré.
“For the record, your mother’s breasts are immensities, one of the wonders of the world.” Dominican American Junot Díaz gives a hilarious reading of a bawdy extract from his Pulitzer Prize winning novel ‘The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao’.
A ginormous 30 feet high spider would scare the life out of most of us. In this video three artists share their diverse feelings towards the spider sculpture made by French artist Louise Bourgeois – as a tribute to her mother.
We visited the Nobel Prize laureate Tomas Tranströmer in his home in Stockholm a few weeks before he passed away, in March 2015. This video with Tranströmer playing the piano to an earlier reading of his poem 'Allegro', became his last public appearance.
Best-selling Egyptian novelist Alaa al-Aswany is at no loss for words when it comes to expressing his high regard for women: “I believe that there are more heroines than heroes – both in literature and in life.” Watch his interesting reasons.
Experience award-winning Canadian writer Margaret Atwood in this humorous and vivid conversation about her works of elaborate ‘speculative fiction’, and how reality and science fiction are in fact inextricably intertwined.
“I’m not sure whether society has really learnt anything from the Holocaust.” She began her life in Germany as an immigrant and became painfully aware of the prejudice that still exists. Meet young Azerbaijan-born novelist, Olga Grjasnowa.
“Be patient – even with chaos.” Let American author, Lydia Davis, guide you through the insecurities and literary wilderness that upcoming writers often face.
“Every time I’m described as a ‘novelist’, I feel there’s a big question mark after that,” Libyan novelist Hisham Matar jestingly remarks in this playful conversation with fellow American novelist, David Vann, about being essentially unoriginal.
The story of one of the great poets of the Arab world. How an original poem written for the Syrian president sent him to school, how he got the name Adonis, revolutionized Arabic poetry and lives in the exile of being – in continuous beginnings.
Most readers don’t realize that it is the Koranic, religious tradition, which shapes modern Arabic poetry. But the greatest Arab poets were non-religious according to the most commended poet of the Arab world, Adonis.
A rare visit at Paul Auster's brownstone home in Brooklyn. Auster shares the story of how he became a writer and how he works: “A good day's work is if I have one typed page at the end of the day, two is amazing, three is a miracle.”
“Most artists have terrible childhoods”. Meet 12 exceptional contemporary artists who reflect upon their early years and how it shaped their life and art.
Watch, listen and soak in the words of 8 prominent artists, who have strong and diverse thoughts on what constitutes insightful advice to young artists.
New York novelist, Paul Auster, comments on the case of 43-year-old African American Eric Garner, who was choked to death by a policeman, and why Auster doesn’t want to give his usual pep speech about his beloved city.
Because she spent her childhood in an India, that had not yet opened its doors to the larger world, Indian novelist, Kiran Desai, had only her knowledge from books to rely on, before she later became an immigrant.
Meet the playful American poet Kenneth Goldsmith, who demonstrates how poetry is all around us - you just need to open your eyes to it, the way Goldsmith does in this video.
Plagiarism, file sharing, inauthenticity and insincerity. Vivacious American poet, Kenneth Goldsmith, was unfazed about entertaining the White House: “I just said the things that I normally say.”
This video presents a poet, who believes in uncreative writing and reads traffic reports to Barack Obama in the White House, calling it poetry. Meet Kenneth Goldsmith, who claims that “copyright doesn’t exist.”
“When you glorify violence, then it comes back to bite you.” In this short video, writer James McBride reflects on the riots in the city of Ferguson and America’s refusal to take a long critical look at itself.
Why is dictatorship so hard to get rid of? Best-selling Egyptian novelist, Alaa al-Aswany, here presents us with surprising takes on a continuously hot topic.
”I think a lot about chance and coincidence. We tend to regard the status quo as necessary, but in fact small details rule our existence. Absolutely anything in life could be completely different. For a writer this is an ideal situation: The novel is the art form of ambivalence.” Meet German writer Daniel Kehlmann, author of the global bestseller Measuring the World.
”Reconciliation? How can I reconcile with a regime? It's a huge machine. Each person was the dictatorship itself.” Interview with German-Romanian writer Herta Müller, who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2009. If you only see one interview with her, it must be this one!
"I would like to try to understand them and see how they exist in the world. Their existence is just as important to them, as ours is to us." Acclaimed writer Lydia Davis has been observing three cows for some years. "I envy them," she says.
"Linda, Lyidia, Lindon, Lyda…" The acclaimed American short story writer Lydia Davis reads an ongoing piece of writing - 'a false autobiography' - of mistakes made about her name and profession. It's funny!
"It's outrageous and it's far worse than what we had in our dictatorships back then", says German writer Herta Müller about Vladimir Putin and Russia's interference in the Ukraine.
Come take a walk in the forest with Scottish artist Katie Paterson, who tells us about her artwork Future Library. And meets world famous writer Margaret Atwood, who will write this future library's first story, not to be published for 100 years.
"I feel very proud to be part of this resistance", says the acclaimed British writer Salman Rushdie reflecting on his book The Satanic Verses and the years of the fatwa. "Today people are much weaker. I wonder if such an act of collective solidarity would ever happen again."
"It wasn't only about me. It was a moment, when a line had to be held when you could not concede the fight", says the author of The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie, in this outtake from a longer interview about his life and work.
Meet one of the great originators of performance poetry, John Giorno, as he reflects on his first meetings with poetry, his great influences, the importance of performing without a book, and where poetry is headed in the future.
During the Cold War CIA and MI6 funded cultural fronts. To promote the open societies agents had to operate in deep secret, an absurdity that drew Ian McEwan to write the spy novel ’Sweet Tooth’, which he reads from here.
I am drawn to the beauty of sentences, Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie confesses in this interview. Nevertheless it is important to keep a distance to your characters.
"Artists have to be like victims on the stakes, sending signals through the flames". Follow the burning signals of Asger Jorn and Jackson Pollock through the eyes of Danish poet, Peter Laugesen.
Is shit in a can art? In this short interview Gavin Turk talks about how Piero Manzoni and his piece ”Artist’s Shit” from 1961 has inspired him in working with his own art pieces, questioning art and its value.
You need two things for a good book: a character with a problem and a landscape. Hear American bestselling author David Vann explain why.
Meet Per Petterson, one of the finest Norwegian writers, who talks about writing between the lines and playing with what's not being told. And about a country that's flooded with money!
A conversation between two great American writers, Jonathan Safran Foer and Jeffrey Eugenides, about the difficulty of writing and living, and the necessity of striking the right balance of self hate in order to write.
The desert means freedom. It is the only place where we can stare death in the face, and return home safely afterwards. Meet Libyan writer Ibrahim Al-Koni for a rare talk about the desert as a literary place.
Aged just 18, Danish-Palestinian Yahya Hassan caused a stir and received death threats because of his powerful poetry collection, which sold in 100.000 copies, criticizing the hypocrisy of the welfare state, his family and Muslims in Denmark.
We are all spies trying to read each others secrets. Meet the superb British writer Ian McEwan in this conversation about his novel Sweet Tooth (2012) – a novel about literature as well as about a love affair between two very different people.
Two of the greatest living Arab writers meet on stage together for the first time, Syrian Adonis and Libyan Ibrahim Al-Koni, in this video about poetry, Sufism and the changes happening in the wake of the Arab spring.
”There is no going back. Time moves on, we change, countries change, spaces change.” Meet the new star of English literature, Taiye Selasi, in this interview about what it means to be human in a global world, searching for a space to be yourself.
“Literature is the queen of the arts – the greatest of them all, because it embraces them all. When you write, you are making music, painting, drawing, cinema.” Meet the unique, secretive César Aira in this rare interview.
”What makes us human is those little gestures.” In this interview Algerian writer and academic Waciny Laredj talks about Islamism and democracy, and about how some religious leaders are learning to accept the modern world.
”The blood that moves through me right now is my great grandfathers blood, but the reason I know him, is because I read Ulysses” says Irish writer Colum McCann in this interview about James Joyce’s modernist novel.
Enjoy these 10 acclaimed writers as they reveal what the magic of reading is to them, and why they feel literature is so powerful.
The protest against surveillance is turning global. A list of leading authors from around the world have signed the petition "A Stand for Democracy in the Digital age". One of them: German Nobel Prize winner Günter Grass explains why...
"I realized it was through language that I could define myself as a German." Meet Nobel Prize laureate Günter Grass (1927-2015) in this interview, which was to be one of his last, where he reflects on his life, literary work and political engagement.
Get ready for a unique, extraordinary experience, as Japanese composer and sound-poet Tomomi Adachi's performs with his special invention - an infrared sensor shirt, which creates sounds according to what Adachi says and how he moves.
”We have the freedom, so we are also obliged to defend certain rights.” An interview with the award winning writer Sofi Oksanen on her latest novel ’When the Doves Disappeared’, a story of occupation, resistance and collaboration in Estonia during and after World War II.
How can you find meaning in sound? Meet Japanese sound poet Tomomi Adachi who combines his voice with his own wondrous musical inventions to create sound works between poetry and music.
With her debut ’Ghana Must Go’ (2013) Taiye Selasi was singled out as the new star of English literature, backed up by Salman Rushdie and Toni Morrison. ’Ghana Must Go’ is a profound, emotional story of family betrayal, transformation and love.
Meet the distinguished writers Taiye Selasi and Colum McCann in this inspiring talk about finding a way to be yourself, a "citizen of elsewhere", with more than one home and an international identity based on many local experiences.
Once you reach the mid thirties, time speeds up intolerably and life becomes more complicated. Interview with writer Zadie Smith about her acclaimed novel 'NW'; a portrait of modern urban life - and the unravelling of a generation.
“Literature thrives on conflict.” The renowned British writer Ian McEwan talks of making love work in fiction, the amazing evolution of the novel as a genre, and the mature writer as a toddler of old age.
"Someone who has 500 friends, has no friends." An interview with the Nobel Prize winning author Günter Grass on why he dislikes Facebook, computers and the internet.
”The older I get, the less I trust resolution at all, and the more comfortable I feel with questions.” Writers Nicole Krauss and Naja Marie Aidt in a conversation about poetry and novels.
”A strong woman is not something I find remarkable, it’s something that I find normal.” Interview with the acclaimed Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie about the power of writing against violence and war.
“I know that words can’t stop a gun, but silence is disgraceful too.” Writer Khaled Khalifa talks about the importance of the written word, on daring to ask and answer questions, and on believing in peace through revolution.
70-minute interview with Patti Smith from the Louisiana Literature festival in Denmark in 2012: "I thought we didn’t have to grow up. I was heartbroken to find out that we didn’t have a choice." Patti Smith is still running wild, staying young at heart.
“Every painting is always two paintings: The one you see, and the one you remember.” Interview with the renowned writer Siri Hustvedt on her strong personal relationship with art and on how she sees image and text as very different experiences.
"You have to cross all boundaries and live with the consequences." Interview with award winning Norwegian writer Tomas Espedal on how being a writer means being willing to write about everything, even if doing so means hurting those closest to you.
Have you ever stood by a river and stared into the black water? In this video acclaimed artist Roni Horn takes us down by the riverside, performing a powerful 40 minute monologue based on her associations with water, including tales of sex and murder.
Did you know that in French one has to spit out a cat, in order to clear one's throat? Poet Caroline Bergwall questions what languages do to the way we understand ourselves: “English speakers don't so much struggle with cats as with frogs.”
”Literature was a place, where I could recognize things, that I thought were only felt by me.” Meet Norwegian writer Linn Ullmann for a conversation about literature, writing and the obligation of the author to be critical of power.
"Every human being has a creative impulse, and we all have the right to exercise this creative impulse" says rock poet Patti Smith. The difference between general creativity and being an artist is a true calling to produce work that endures and inspires.
Patti Smith reads a very moving passage from her memoir 'Woolgathering', about her close relationship to her baby sister as well as her spirit dog Bambi - her childhood companion with whom she shared a unique understanding and connection.
Interview with Argentinian César Aira who has been called the Marcel Duchamp of Latin America because of his experimental and unpredictable books, heralded by e.g. Roberto Bolaño and Patti Smith.
"Writing sucks. The worst. Like masturbation with paper cuts." Enjoy writers DBC Pierre and Gary Shteyngart in this extremely funny conversation from Louisiana Literature 2011.
What we should remember about Auschwitz is, that it was made possible by humans, argues Göran Rosenberg, whose book about his father won the renowned Swedish August-prize in 2012: "And these human beings are we."
Anne Carson reads from her book Nox, which is an epitaph for her brother who ran away and died in Copenhagen. In Nox Carson tries to picture her brother through diary notes, letters and photographs.
Canadian Anne Carson has been heralded as one of the most important contemporary poets writing in English. In this video she performs ’Antigonick’, which is her version of Sophocles’ ancient Greek tragedy, Antigone.
Swedish writer Kerstin Ekman, one of Scandinavia’s most renowned authors, talks about how she uses her own experiences when writing and why we should be careful of writers when they try to preach to us about society.
This video features Russian-American writer Gary Shteyngart who reveals that he spends most of his working time on a toilet, giving the concept of a ’content provider’ a whole new dimension. Shteyngart introduces his favorite - the Scandinavian toilet.
American novelist Nicole Krauss reads from her novel 'Great House'. In the excerpt father and son meet in Jerusalem for the first time in 25 years. We hear the voice of the father in the mind of his son. The author introduces.
Interview with Nicole Krauss about her love for writing and literature in general. The New York Times declared Krauss as one of America's most important contemporary novelists.
The award winning American writer David Vann, known from 'Caribou Island' and 'Legends of a suicide' tells about the painful struggle between truth and fiction in his work dealing with his father's suicide when he was 13 years old.
Interview with the American writer Richard Ford, who many have compared to William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway. In this video he talks about his novel 'Canada' published in 2012 as well as about his authorship in general.
Interview with the acclaimed Swedish writer Henning Mankell (1948-2015), whose books have sold in more than 40 million copies. Here he reflects upon his work, inspirations and the role of the intellectual in society.
“I left religion when I was twelve, but I never left praying. Many poems have stayed with me in my life and a lot of them were like little prayers.” In this video Patti Smith explains how poetry can be a means for staying in contact with a higher energy.
In this interview Patti Smith tells the wonderful story of her first encounters with Robert Mapplethorpe, who became her lover and friend, and who is celebrated in her memoir 'Just Kids.'
Conversation with Jonathan Safran Foer about his book and artwork Tree of Codes, a novel that has been carved out of another novel by one of Foer’s favourite novelists, Bruno Schulz.
Interview with American writer Jonathan Safran Foer, in which he reflects on the power of literature in general and poetry in particular. Foer also argues that art always has a personal point of departure, where the artist confronts the world and rearranges it.
Interview with Swedish writer Henning Mankell (1948-2015) about his passion for theatre. Mankell talks about the privilege of working with another dimension of the word in the space of the theatre.
"Build a good name," rock poet Patti Smith advises the young. "Keep your name clean. Don’t make compromises. Don’t worry about making a bunch of money or being successful. Be concerned about doing good work and protect your work."
When September 11 happened Patti Smith discovered how much she missed Andy Warhol - the only artist who would have known how to respond.
Interview with Jeffrey Eugenides, who finds it much harder to write short stories than long novels. Also he reflects upon the different expectations towards intellectuals in Europe and the United States.
Impressions from Louisiana Channel which produces videos on the arts featuring the artists.