Wachtel On The Arts is a regular feature hosted by the celebrated literary and arts journalist Eleanor Wachtel. Eleanor is known for her revealing and illuminating conversations with authors on the award-winning Writers & Company.

Wachtel On The Arts airs throughout July and August on Wednesdays at 1:00 pm.


Wednesday, June 25
Kara Walker is the talk of the New York City art scene this year thanks to her newest work, hilariously titled "A Subtlety," centered on a giant white sphinx made from tons of sugar, sitting in a soon-to-be-demolished Domino Sugar Refinery warehouse in Brooklyn. Like an angel of death for the beautiful but historically charged building, the Marvellous Sugar Baby provokes us to bear witness to our moment, to the legacy of the slaves-and-sugar trade, to the subjugation and also the power of African-American women, workers, and... well, that's the thing about art--what it exactly provokes is up to you. Walker has called her work "an antidote to politeness." Time Magazine has listed her as one of the world's 100 Most Influential People.


Wednesday, July 2
Kelly Reichardt became a favourite director for fans of independent cinema with her movies Wendy & Lucy, Meek's Cutoff, and Old Joy... this summer Kelly Reichardt's new film, Night Moves, hits the theatre circuit. It's about environmental activists who blow up a hydro dam in Oregon, and it stars Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Dakota Fanning, and Peter Sarsgaard. Eleanor finds out about Kelly's childhood in a family of Miami cops, her years spent couch-surfing while she raised money for her movies, and what it's like to be called "the defining director of America's modern cinema of pessimism" by European critics.

Wednesday, July 9
"The diminutive genius with the exclamation point hairdo," the Toronto Star calls him. Peter Sellars embeds his politics in his artistic vision. An exuberant, a social progressive, an internationalist, and something of a radical, he's been involved in many of the best-known works of contemporary opera--works like Nixon in China and Doctor Atomic. He's also a passionate adaptor of older works, reshaping Mozart and Handel for today's audiences. His version of The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart) took place partly in the penthouse of the Trump Tower in New York, for instance. He talks to Eleanor about his version of George Frederic Handel's Hercules, performed this spring by the Canadian Opera Company. The character of Hercules, in Peter Sellars’ vision, is no divine half-god from ancient myth. He’s a modern American soldier, returning from war in Iraq or Afghanistan. He carries the deep psychological scars of that experience, suffering from what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder.

Wednesday, July 16
It's one of the art world's great stories: how Chuck Close overcame the setbacks (dyslexic, face-blind, and paralysed in four limbs) to become—and remain—one of the richest, most prolific, consistent, and respected painters in America.Chuck Close has managed to turn the most devastating experiences into his own upward trajectory. His extraordinary success is both aesthetic and commercial -- a few years ago, one of his portraits from the early 1970s sold for $4.8 million. He tells his story and shares his ideas and wicked sense of humour in this wide-ranging, hour-long conversation Eleanor Wachtel, focused partly on Close's recent exhibition of nude photographs.

Wednesday, July 23
From her Oscar-nominated Holocaust films, Europa, Europa and In Darkness, to her most recent work about Soviet repression in Czechoslovakia, Agnieszka Holland focuses on the unconventional human stories that illuminate larger historical events. But that wasn’t always her plan. She was born in 1948, the year Stalinism took hold in Poland. Her mother was Catholic and her father Jewish—something she discovered only by accident. Growing up in Warsaw in the 1950s and ‘60s, Holland had no time for politics. She believed art was something separate from the burning issues and noisy arguments that occupied her idealistic parents and their friends. It wasn’t until she experienced the Prague Spring—while at film school in Czechoslovakia--that her consciousness was awakened. Her latest work, a three-part HBO miniseries called Burning Bush, dramatically recreates of that moment in history.

Wednesday, July 30
celebrated in all the great museums of Europe, Asia, and America. Growing up gay, black, and poor in London, England, he was an outsider from the start. He made his name as a video artist in the 80s, and had a big break with Looking for Langston, a black-and-white film that is a landmark of queer cinema for his generation. Lately, his biggest works are spread across multiple video screens, combining sound and space and images to either tell stories or speak poetically to current issues of global concern, particularly the dangerous migrations of workers seeking a better life.


Wednesday, August 6
If you watch the French filmmaker's new movie, a farce called The French Ministerabout the frenetic behind-the-scenes machinations that led to a great speech at the UN opposing the Iraq War (based on the true story of Dominic Villepin), you might peg Bertrand Tavernier as a topical satirist. But the true story is that he's a careful historian, with a beautifully subtle touch. His early films are poetic, painterly, like his Oscar-winning A Sunday to Remember, set around the time of the First World War, an elegy for the expiring culture of 19th-century France. The Los Angeles Times called Tavernier the "heir apparent" to both the New Wave director Francois Truffaut and his predecessor Jean Renoir. He's a funny, fascinating, warm-hearted man.

Wednesday, August 13
Arguably the most influential British architect of the 20th century, Richard Rogers pioneered a modern style and found himself in a war of words with the Prince of Wales, who hated what the likes of Rogers got up to in old London town. Rogers' most famous building is still probably the one he made his name with: the Centre Pompidou in Paris. But there are plenty of other eye-catching structures around the world that came from Rogers and his architecture team. The Madrid Airport, while less famous, is no less dramatic--a colourful, swooping design that won the prestigious Stirling Prize. His ideas are rooted in socially progressive, pro-urban beliefs, and he was the guru for the re-vitalization of London during the late 1990s and early 2000s. He tells Eleanor about his early life as an Italian immigrant to Britain during the Second World War, and the values and lessons that have stuck with him through 60 years at the top of the architecture world.

Wednesday, August 20
Canada's best-known art export today is this photographer and conceptualist, who recreates in astounding detail the scenes of a history--real or imagined--most often set in this country, especially Stan Douglas' hometown of Vancouver. His latest work is a theatre piece called Helen Lawrence, dramatizing post-war neighbourhoods in the city, using a blank stage and multiple movie screens that place the actors into computer-generated models. Is it art, is it theatre, is it a movie, or is it a giant computer game? Eleanor's conversation takes us into the mind of Stan Douglas, and puts the new creation into the context of the big works of his career to date.

Wednesday, August 27
To celebrate their 40th anniversary, the groundbreaking all-modern string quartet commissioned a new piece from Philip Glass, and embarked on a world tour. The premiere of Glass' String Quarter No. 6 took place at the Chan Centre in Vancouver, and the show began with Eleanor Wachtel and Philip Glass on stage for an hour, talking about the new work and also Glass' long relationship with the quartet, as well as the state of contemporary classical music. To round out this summer season of Wachtel on the Arts, we're broadcasting part of their on-stage conversation, as well as a bonus interview that Eleanor did with David Harrington, the maverick violinist who created the Kronos Quartet 40 years ago.



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