Documentary Now (2015) s03e04 Episode Script

Waiting for the Artist

1 Good evening.
I'm Helen Mirren, and you're watching "Documentary Now!" season 52.
The modern art world can be divided into two groups Izabella Barta and everyone else.
In 2010, a film crew followed the renowned performance artist as she returned to her roots in Budapest, Hungary, to prepare for her career retrospective.
Please enjoy "Waiting for the Artist.
" [Camera shutter clicking] Sprout: Izabella Barta is, without question, the most important performance artist of the last half century.
So many have tried to follow in her footsteps, and so many have failed because what she does is impossible to replicate.
[Guetta speaking French] Dimo: And now, Izabella, she is returning to her hometown of Budapest, Hungary, and she is there for a retrospective of her life's work and maybe the promise of something new, a new piece.
The question, uh, on everybody's mind, and that they're not saying is, "Does she have anything new to say?" I think maybe no.
Her best work is in the past, and, uh, that is okay for an artist.
I'm nervous, yeah.
No, no, I'm always nervous.
Woman: Could you lean forward, please? I mean, for how many years can you you be surprised? You know, I jump out of your closet one night, and you will be shock, but I do the same thing for 30 years, at some point, you're going to say to me, "Hey, you know [laughs] get your own closet to hide in.
" Birth, death.
Birth, death.
Birth, death.
I am human.
I am human.
I am human.
I am human.
Season 3, Episode 4 [Train passes] [Orchestra playing] [Sighs] We are but a few months away from the show, and as of now, Izabella has yet to be inspired with an idea.
But historically, if given space to explore, an idea will come to her.
[Speaking gibberish] What she's doing now will not be the performance I don't think.
I like my hair in that one.
It's good.
Maybe here.
So what we're doing is, we're going through my archives to find the pieces that best represent my career.
Izabella's early work was about being unseen.
There was "Spotlight" where she stood just outside a beam of light.
Then, of course, "Under the Blanket," where she remained under a blanket for the entire day, making only the smallest of movements.
The idea of invisible performance has so much to do with Izabella's childhood.
What you have to understand about me is that I grew up under Communist rule in Hungary.
You know, my parents, they lived in state housing that was not zoned for children.
When I was born, they kept me hidden because the stove in our apartment, it work, and they were worried if we move to new apartment that the [laughs] that the stove there would, you know, would not work.
So Izabella, she told me this story.
When she was a child, the inspector came to the building to inspect for children, and her mother put a coat over Izabella.
The inspector did not know it was her, so he put his coat over, thinking that she was a coat rack.
She stayed like this, not moving for a long time until the inspector left, and this, as you know, is the inspiration for "Coated Spirit.
" I'm very nervous.
This is a big deal, I tell you.
Got pain in my uterus already.
Each room has one of my historic piece performed by someone else, and then I will be here in the last room, and then I cover the walls in, Rei, in gasoline, right? Then I light the gasoline.
Big fire.
And then I run out of the museum before it burns down.
- What don't you like? - Fire is very unsafe, and Yes, but art is not supposed to be safe.
It's supp.
.
It's supposed to be radical.
But there are still rules to starting fires indoors.
Whose rules? The city.
Mm-hmm.
We could apply for permits.
No.
It's ruined.
[Knock on door] Izabella, please come out.
Ohh! Rei: She's frustrated.
She's worried she has no more ideas.
[Birds chirping] You look so nervous.
Hello! So nice to meet you.
Ah, and the man with the beard, too.
Hello.
So nice, and you have such lovely ears.
I like it.
Everyone's cellphones.
You will be so happy.
Nobody will know where you are.
I need you to find the comfort in the discomfort.
We might do some, like, punching and some, um, some tweaking.
If I come and I pull your nipples, no screams, no screams at all.
[All speaking foreign language] [All panting] [All exhale slowly] Whoa! Good.
Who's next? [Thuds] Woman: Oh! Carrots for everybody.
You know, you will be performing my historic piece, right, so I, you know, I have to trust you with my life, you know? But I want you to feel free, you know, to ask me absolutely anything, okay? The "Bucket Series" is one of Izabella's most famous works.
For the "Bucket Series," a telephone was placed on a pedestal in the center of the room.
Then, the men in the room were invited to place objects on the floor.
There were mousetraps, roller skates, and so on.
Once the floor was littered with dangerous objects, everyone would take their seats.
After a moment, the phone would ring, and Izabella would charge into the room with a bucket on her head.
[Telephone ringing] Aah! Oh! Whoa! Sprout: This show was incredibly popular with teenage boys.
It was an amazing piece in that it showed how bestial an audience could be when given a chance.
They could have cleared a path for her, but instead, they put her in peril, and no matter how bad she fell or how many things she ran into, that face on the bucket remained happy.
And that facade, that smiling bucket, is is what it means to be a woman.
[Speaking French] You know, he changed her life.
And every night, the show, it would end with me just writhing on floor.
It was terrible pain, except the night Dimo was there.
You know, he was the first person to tend my wounds.
When he removed my bucket, and I saw his face, in that moment, it it it was love.
I found it offensive that a man would interrupt the performance of a woman.
But, of course, with Dimo, offensive is the goal.
[Speaking French] Sprout: I first became aware of Dimo when he won Breakthrough Talent at the Milano Biennale D'Arte Moderna.
Of course, we later learned that the Milano Biennale D'Arte Moderna was Dimo's own creation that he tricked people into believing it was real.
I mean, when I heard about this, I I thought, "Wow," I mean, "Who is this man who demands to be seen like this?" You make big posters, and then you rent out a big white room, and you tell all the journalists, and then, uh, the next thing you know, you win a stupid little award.
There was an assumption among many, myself included, that when it was time for Dimo to do real work instead of pranks, the art world would see him for a fraud.
But this time did not come.
My core goal as an artist is to deconstruct the idea of working, of effort, because we are raised to believe that great works of art require suffering.
I want to show that, no, the opposite is true.
The best art is made while eating cookies or drinking chocolate.
He was incredibly lazy.
His first gallery show was called "Modern Sculptures.
" It was a series of works designed to challenge what art was.
"Toy Car in Glass of Water," "Army Men in Ice Tray," and "Toothbrush Next To Fork.
" What I did was, I put no thought and no time into it.
I waited until opening night, and, uh, I went to the store right to the left around the corner.
I bought a bunch of [speaking Italian] crap.
The next item up for bid is the new piece by Dimo Van Omen, "Cereal Box in a Party Hat.
" [Guetta speaks French] $800,000, $900,000, are we going to get over a million? Jessen: Soon after they met, Dimo and Izabella fell in love, and of course, that sent ripples through the art world.
He was actually He was very untroubled, you know, which I found very, for me, very calm because when I'm alone, I think my instincts, they, you know, they tend towards the chaos, and, uh, when I am without idea, as I am now, I really do long for that for our connection.
Yes, even how it ended between us, I don't think I would ever trade it, no.
I don't think she would either, because how could she? This was the most fertile time for her creatively.
My opinion was that she carried Dimo.
You had a woman who risked everything in her art and a man who risked nothing.
Dimo: I conceived this performance "Impressions," two lovers covered in paint, violently launching ourselves into the canvas so that even when we left, we would remain.
"Impressions" was identical to an original piece of Izabella's called "Miss Remembered.
" Dimo: It is very different.
This piece is two people, not one, very different.
That paint was black.
This was blue.
Blue is different than black.
Jessen: The art world was always drawn to the story of Dimo and Izabella.
Their work always made you wonder what their relationship must be like.
Dimo insisted that, you know, in spite of our success, that we should drive around Europe in this this old van.
It was, you know, it was very old, very It was very beat up.
We would perform and drive, and Dimo would pick a spot for us to park the van for the night, and and then we would make love, and because this van was really so small, we would Well, I would sleep in the back, and he would sleep out under the stars which I know now is not true, but, you know, it was actually it was It was lovely thing to believe.
Dimo almost always parked near a five-star hotel.
He would get a room for the night while Izabella slept in the van.
This was also when the infidelities began.
Izabella, she had asked that we be monogamous, and I said yes, and true to my word, I was always monogamous when I was with her.
It was the other times that I was not, and still, for whatever reason, she considered it a betrayal.
Women.
Their breakup was very painful for Izabella, but instead of dealing with it in private, she offered to make it a public moment.
Jessen: Their breakup performance was called "Stairwell.
" Izabella started at the bottom of the Empire State Building, and Dimo was at the top, and they were wearing ski boots.
Barta: What was important, I think for me, was that we passed each other exactly the halfway because I believe that we had, in the end, we had given the same to each other.
They did not pass halfway.
Dimo stopped a few times to have a cigarette, and then he flirted with a couple of secretaries.
You both have beautiful eyes.
I don't know who is the better.
I'd say that it's a tie.
It's a even tie.
And when he realized he was running behind, he exited the stairwell to take the elevator.
But by the time he made it to the 51st floor, she had already passed it.
So he sat waiting while she continued on.
She climbed every step.
By the time she reached the top, he was asleep.
The sad thing is, she was never the same as an artist, and I blame myself for that, of course, but she needs to accept that it was a mistake to part with me.
[Quietly] How long? [Quietly] 45 minutes.
I can hear you.
Sprout: We had a bit of a shock today.
We've been preparing a book to go along with her retrospective.
It's been arduous because Izabella is very particular.
Today, this book arrived in stores.
It's written by Dimo.
She has been on the floor ever since, still no idea for her show.
If I was a kind of person who worried, I would worry now.
Dimo: Well, this is the book.
It came out good.
Um Well, there is no courage in offending unless you are also willing to offend those you love.
And I hope that that will be a famous quote someday.
It frustrates me that Izabella doesn't value her post-Dimo work more.
There was so much great work in that era, like "Ein Tag, Ein Frankfurter," for one.
Ah, yeah, "Ein Tag, Ein Frankfurter.
" "Ein Tag, Ein Frankfurter," when people look back at it today, they say, "Oh, she ate a hot dog a day for 365 days.
What's the big deal?" But they forget, she only ate one hot dog a day, and she ate it for the entire day.
Barta: So there were two key elements to performing "Ein Tag, Ein Frankfurter.
" The first was to imagine that each day was my last, and this was going to be the final meal that I would ever eat.
So I had to savor every single moment of the experience.
And the second key was tiny bites.
[Guetta speaking French] When I was 17, I saw Izabella perform "Stranger in Need.
" Changed my whole life.
Sprout: Hundreds of people a day went through that exhibit.
Each one had the opportunity to interact with Izabella in a moment of great vulnerability.
[Crying] [Applause] This is the kind of work people are expecting from her.
[Metal clanging] What? What? Excuse me? Excuse me? The wire, I think it's causing a big wrinkle in the middle.
We cannot have the wrinkle in it because it has to be smooth.
Oh, it's very bad.
Okay.
So this is the letter I received "Dearest Dimo, will you join me for one last moment, one last tryst, one last performance? Yours truly, Izabella.
" No, I was not surprised.
I think Izabella has always made the best decisions, and she is correct to assume that the public will want to see us together again.
This is the proper culmination of her career.
Yeah, part of me is disappointed that she's sharing this moment with him.
I believe her career is her own.
[Speaking French] I will not be happy to see Dimo.
I have nothing to say about this.
Sorry, nothing more.
- Over here, Dimo! - Dimo! [Camera shutters clicking] Oh, well, here we are, and let's see what happens.
Photographer: Dimo, over here! Over here! Dimo! [Speaks foreign language] Up? Whoa! [Clatters] [Crowd gasps and murmurs] [Cheers and applause] [Cheers and applause continues] Barta: You know, if you're a woman working in the arts, or anywhere actually, people always think that you're being controlled.
But I've always had control.
You know, so if the audience thinks that I'm sad or fragile or emotional, it's because I want them to think that.
I've always known exactly what I want and exactly how to get it.
Because I'm artist.
Aah! Oh, oh, oh! I am human.
I am human.
I am human.
I am human.
I am human.