« Desert Island Discs

Yinka Shonibare

2016-03-13 | 🔗
Kirsty Young's castaway is the artist Yinka Shonibare MBE. His work has populated museums around the globe, with a vivid, subversive and often tragi-comic presence; exploring themes of cultural identity, post colonialism and the impact of globalisation. A Turner Prize nominee in 2004, he has exhibited at the Venice Biennial and internationally. His 'Nelson's Ship in a Bottle' became his first public art commission when it was one of the art works chosen for the Fourth Plinth in London's Trafalgar Square. Born in London, his parents moved the family back to Nigeria when he was three. Later he returned to Britain to finish his education but his plans to study art were brutally interrupted when he was 19 contracted the disease, Transverse Myelitis, which attacked his central nervous system and rendered him paralysed from the neck down. He had three years of intensive rehabilitation before beginning again at art school. He went on to study at Goldsmiths and was part of the Young British Artist generation. Producer: Sarah Taylor.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hello, I'm kirsty young. Thank you for downloading this podcast of desert island discs from BBC radio for for rights reasons, the music choices are shorter than in the radio broadcasts for more information about the programme. Please visit bbc dotcom, dont uk slash radio for. My customary this week Is the artist inca sooner by his work, has put they said museums worldwide with a vivid, subversive and often tragicomic presents explode seems of cultural identity, posts colonialism and the impact of globalization? He is some of a citizen of the world himself born in london? His parents move defend
to nigeria when he was three later. He came back to britain to finish his education, but his plans, to study arts were brutally interrupted when he contracted a disease that attacked his simple nervous system. As a result, he had three years- intensive rehab. He now uses a wheelchair and works with assistance to create his eyes. He says all the sea things that are supposed to be wrong with me: have actually become a huge s, I'm talking about recent ability. There meant to be negatives within our society, but they are precisely the things that have liberated me so welcome income is a tricky thing to try and describe the art that you do precisely because you work across so many forms. He. U do filmed works. You do paintings, you do installations, you do sculpture. You once said that you want the work. You do to be beautiful and dark art. Well, what a phrase nessus? What do you mean by beautiful and dark art the world is so
complex and, of course, it's easy to be angry and it's easy He too in a whether on the outside, but I think it's best to produce work that will make people think that will make people engage. What you're trying to do. I believe in the idea of the trojan horse, so I like being a subversive, but I do it in a subtle way and I like being in places where I'm not meant to be, and then I can kind of challenge people by dont one they ought to appear. Aggression a confrontational. Do you ever just go into a gallery and watch people as they come and see your art and absorb it and watch the reactions to it. Often curving shaped by in a what
I say or what they think, I'm in, for example the ship in a bottle I made in trafalgar square, which was famously on the fourth plinth absolutely, and the response to that was actually overwhelming. I mean it was the first time I could have conversations with cap drivers above the work and will give us a taste of some of the opinions you had then from the cabbies in whomsoever else? What did they tell you, but you're not most awful either? How did you get the ship into the bottle and in that savings that all well I'd have to kill you? If I told you that venus, when you creating you listening to music? Yes, I mean, I often paints and I draw- and I always have music in the background. Tell me about this first one. What are we gonna hear while this is some arthur franklin? And I must have been either possibly about san or eleven, and I have this for the first time on sole traders, and I just could not stop dancing.
Suggest so funny, but was it The franklin and evoke steady, sue english. Only by arts, it's really but transformation. Isn't it's a transformation of materials is the transformation of maybe people's view of the world. It is a transformation of thought How much do you want people They are looking at your art. How much you want them to feel and how much you want them to think. Would you rather have one above the other
Think I want both in my own life. I would actually go as far as to say that the art itself saved me, because when I was ill- and I was in hospital, it was a farmer therapy I was coming to recovery. There was also a wing which I could transform. World in my own way? I could also creates impossible around. You know things I might not be able to do a good sort of travel through the earth. It struck me in looking at so much of your work that a lot of it has movement. In it sometimes magical movement. There may be actual figures sorting in the air or more recently, I think of those handkerchief sculptures that were exhibited. In the middle of the sculpture park in yorkshire. Do you think that has very much mirrored your own personal lack of
movement? You can go into those realms in other ways where art is incredibly liberating an you're able to do things. You can't do, and you can imagine walls that you can't actually occupy yourself, so paths that has something to do with it, but it's the art of making the impossible possible- and I think that's that's. Essentially what art is for me. I mean it's a form of alchemy after all, in a your son in the ordinary into the extraordinary you're an artist and when you used the word alchemy, I mean that does bestow upon his a sort of magical quality, even viewing it. With that absolutely I mean I think art is a form of magic. If something that you do to get away from the house, horrible things that happened in the world and somehow you want to make it better. You can fix the world three arts or you can somehow make
more bearable. Let's go to your second piece of music. I English wanna bite Tell me about this. What are we going to hear now we're going to have synchro system by king sonya day, and why have you chosen this? While I chose this because this very much mine's me of my childhood in nigeria and I'm buying. Meanwhile, so he sings in your back and I just like the mixture of our traditional african drums with the guitar and also the year by language- and this just pure nostalgia for me. So sing sing.
The only on these. Sunny day and synchro system, so you can crush on her body. You were born in Britain as we know you lived here until you are, I think three and then europeans decided that they were going to take the family to nigeria. Why did they decide to do that? While my parents took me back nine join the sixties There was a lot of enthusiasm in the sixties. I was the kind of post independence. Euphoria people went back to rebuild my father
lloyd Europe and he wanted to make a contribution, and it was a very happy time, Raw data have ennobled military coups at that time, but there was a bit there when it was actually very optimistic, annette is about nation building and can you described me family life. At that time and legal counsellor fairly, I show we would do well to do show major middle class back out and we believed in their very nice than modernist home no with gardens and an we add gina chefs and began to a driver that turkey is a school. My father was a corporate lawyer, and yet the united bank for africa was god, are you where very lightly. When you say you know there were various military coups I mean. Did you feel a degree of in stability, even as a kid or was that pretty much kept arms lens, the children were protected. I'm vaguely remember the civil war
june I was quite young by groping lagos, so there would be siren and then everyone without to lie down? I remember as a child, but the actual bombing didn't come to lagos, but we had about eight and we saw images. tv, I'm talking about the bathroom war and ate. It was very sad. I read that interest in how it began or was attributable to the chronically bad offered in traffic in lagos. The traffic was that you really bad right, so they drive. I used to pick me up quite late from who and I used to stay behind in that room to do some are while I was waiting for the driver am I ought to tell you to stay there with me and
I used to do more, drawing a look at lahti that books my interest in that kind of began that way: you're good at heart, ass, a little guy where you what I loved it tonight because of having to wait after school. I had more time to practice by art in a say, wasn't entirely bad good for something. I tell me about your third piece of music man This is my boy lollipop, and this reminds me of my mother, because this is from my mother's record collection. And my mother have this in a single same machine. And she used to make our around close and catherine patents I. She also had a lot of fashion magazines and they also used to look at all the factions in the magazine and edges. Remember this
I have been in the background, the that was really small and my boy lollipop and chosen you say, cushion your body because it reminds you of all the times that you'd watch your mother king, her own clothes on her singer sewing machine. What was she terribly fashionable your mother? She looked like one of this dreams. You know she had. Ah the wig and the sixties dresses things fabulous. I was looking at the average winter temperature lagos in nigeria run about twenty seven degrees. I was looking at the average winter temperature in and over england around about seven degrees? That's where you were sent back to do your exams to this draft, the old cat
boarding school, I mean that must have been something was shocked. The system was it well, it was really shocking. Coming back and having to play a role in the cold and all so all I remember the food I didn't know I told him the whole was- and I used to eating you, though spicy food then in niger, either with each other fries and plantations, and did you miss home terribly? I wondered leave immediately, When I arrived is I mean I enjoyed some of it, but there was just too strict and then just boys alone. I didn't like that so much either was about your growing interest, then new mid and late teens in ice. When did it become clear to you that? Actually that was your thing I was new when I was at school but of course coming from an engineer and finally, you expect it to be a lawyer and content a doctor, a Gallop sudanese its agenda, one
the banker ones a dentist I'm, the only one is gone. I've got a slightly the wrong. Why did they say you will study, blah blah well, my father. I think you would be likely to have studied law and heal. Wondered what I would do for a living in a. How would you survive as an artist is a good question on that question came up again and again in the beginning of especially after I left goldsmiths college. I was always broke and I was always calling home for money and there was always the usual. I told you so an and take me back if you would again cutty eighty year old self fort was you in so far as any eighty year old imagines their future? What did you imagine your future to be? I want to be an artist, but I also wanted to tee There was also another thing I thought I could join, I universal art, school and just to art. I never really thought that there would be
what it's become now, especially my generation of artists those were in know sensation of the royal academy in other, so called young british artie, You know the. Why bs and None of us had any money in those days, and none of us actually imagine that the interest in contemporary art in britain will become as big as it is become. Usually you know, the theater was what people were mostly interested in, not the visual arts. The whole lot world has been transformed, but at that time you know, the best you could have hoped for would have been. You, though, maybe part time teaching us not school, and that would have been your lot really time for some more music in kishinev. I tell me about this. This is your fourth disc of the day. This is somebody that my parents did not approve of at all. This is further cootie. A feller had twenty seven wives. He he really had yes mamma.
At any time to make a record to develop murray twenty seven. We rise. He challenged establishment any challenged authority. He asked I encourage the smoking of marijuana and there no way my parents would have approved of anything like that, but because my parents did not approve of him, I really loved him I like I'm, so I know what do we want? My son James thing like watching drowsy shall die goes when fish lucy and gentlemen, sir english. Only by it was nineteen eighty one and you were starting your foundation here at wimbledon, levice. You tripped on this
using you fell. Tell me what happened next. I was just came down the stairs and I felt faints and I could feel myself falling and then I just remember I woke up in her. Little two weeks later, another now told I've been there for two weeks I was in a coma and I wanted to get up, and I was told where we're sorry you can't get up, and I set out just give me- is take out just get up and walk, and it was explained to me that it was sometimes was my light. Is it was a virus in my spine which, left me completely the romantic downwards for a nineteen year old. That was shocking. I didn't know what would happen next. You would give three years of intensive physiotherapy, which must in itself have been astonished. Really hard physical work. What sort of mental supports were you given
in terms of a you know. You were a young man with their life in front of you, you'd been entirely able bodied, and this came totally out of the blue. Am I had is support worker that after my career needs and also at learn, everything had looked occupational therapy at learn how to address myself, how to feed myself and then also how to drive a car, so you were able to get back a degree of mobility from having been totally paralysed by the initial. Yes, in fact, I was walking. Around for a number of years with difficulty wanted about. Maybe three years ago, when I introduce you to day, I used the courts to illustrate you added towards what has happened to you, and you said that you know these things are meant to be negative, but actually there precisely the things that have liberated me, I'm wondering between them
Of that happening to you in this catastrophe, the falling you and this evolved middle- aged man, with all his experiences and and sought to maturity. Know at what point did you begin to think? Yes, actually, this is a part of me. I will embrace I'm thinking that must have taken a heck of a time. You're not really happy. Also you fully accepted it, and then you ve tried to build a life based on your new situation. I have to admit I was suicidal. I had recital thoughts when I hadn't accepted the situation and I wanted it to be exactly ass. It was, and I was sent for all kinds of therapies and particularly you know my father was very keen to get me back to how I was so. Therefore I had to go through all kinds of therapies. You mean physical therapy and
so alternative made scene and so on? I just wanted to get back to my passion, which is art, and I think when I stopped all the other types of alternative medicine, felt better because I realized you know. I was starting to come to terms with myself and learning to leave with my new body, an ear, of in a new light through that and consequently the facts. I also chose to have completely new friends. Nobody from the past. I wanted who would take me as I am now, and that's what I did. I basically caught off a lot of people in my past. There must have been bull from as you describe your past, who still there much wanted to be part of your life who felt that they were you and they had a place in your present in your future? How did you do with that? I just didn't contact people from my
Can you remember a time in your mid twenties when I dont know if it would be when you woke up in the morning or when you were among your new friends when you thought this is a good life I want to be in this. Life came back into art school. Was that time when I felt this is really good. Much more to come in christiania body? For now, let's have some music. This, sir, is the godfather of soul, james brown and damn gives brow
is just so we. Finally, we will you ever bother with my lad. Say it load on blacken on pride. That was james, brain, so eurozone by e. We're talking there a moment ago, abides by I'm sure school of arts in air cleansing. In london. You were there in your area. In mid twenties, what will you interested in his young student? Were you a radical type, not initially, because I come from a very privileged backgrounds, because I was just happy me drawing on a bench in news. That's all I was doing and those quite happy with that.
And then I realized no actually to do something more and then I discovered about the black movements and, of course, the holiest of empire and colonialism, and also identity politics and then I realized that actually there's a lot going on in the world that you know I had to be conscious of allah an you said. You were doing your life classes and painting your needs, and you are very happy with that. I read through the eu: did a project entitled perestroika, but one point after my beard of happily paint in the news I saw what was going on in the van soviet union, an perestroika. I was saddened to happen, so I them made work about perestroika and then one of my cheetah sets me by jove african origin and you want you making authentic african
anna somebody grow up in a city in lagos, and I you know I was watching sesame street on watching skippy and I didn't quite understand what this man's about producing, authentic africa art. You know, that's when I thought. Okay, so, regardless of what I did, I would be conceded
unseen am of african origin, but there are also open to the modern world and not stock. But I felt very much that I wasn't expecting some out to participate in a global conversation and I felt that the issue of the cold war and praise troika was a conversation. Is an african I could participate in and also, as you say, that phrase authentic africa. This idea that you constantly play with it is the appropriation of culture of you assumed to be yours, but actually, let's just look at the idea of authentic and and what sort of culture which colors which prince, which paints belong, to whom I mean the so called african textiles,
Indonesia new says fabrics produced by the dutch. Now these are the fabrics. What for people who might not be aware that recur constantly in your right, and they would be, I think, to the unknowing. I certainly two mile. I you would immediately associate them with african fashion. They are sort of boutique, they are highly coloured, but in fact their origins are hot. Well, there, indonesian, enclosed fabrics produced by the dutch and also the bridge shall so they were at one time they are produced in height in manchester, and also In holland and then four cells to the african market, let's have some music. English. Anybody tell me about our next track. This is compared to what, by less mecca and eddy Harris, and I just find it absolutely company- Everybody now make it back
that was eddie harrison's compared to what what have you family over the use made of your art, it's kind of one because in are in danger, if it translates into dollars, then obviously something good about it. No, particularly as I've been out did a number of awards and honours and so on. So my parents very much recognise that, particularly when I received f b, I mean my family are very apt. In of the royal family. So that was something that was liked her much you didn't just in.
Race, the mp by accepting it, you also incorporated into your name and the names of your exhibitions, the euro. They became in cash on a body. Envy ii was your tongue in your cheek. What else was that What did the n b e a number of artist? Another said: oh, you know you have to turn it down. You know because of the history of empire so on, and I felt that the british empire is no longer threatening. I mean a moment I even have to single out the legacy of empire has gone away or the legacy of empire is very much hip. Art empire is not as threatening as it was and to create some kind of opposition or some kind of dichotomy. I just felt was wrong. I felt that if you were honoured, ye should not on it down in that way, and I felt very much that it's important to actually make the point so really accepting it is
almost. There will thus adding my own independence. Yes, it sought to reject it would have given it power absolutely and also would diminish to me, because it with a position me in opposition to something- and I am now in opposition to anything. So I'm not on the opposite side of any arguments. I'm always both.
Actually, after all you, I do their job in the palace, and I I guess I would describe myself as a rebel within. Let's have some music in cash by this is sam. The first time I actually in this same soap opera attentively, because I always felt the melancholy of opera, which I was later to find cathartic as an older person as a young person. I just wanted to dance, and I didn't want any inside in my life but then actually as I'm with short and a girl friend actually introduced me to opera for the first time. Of course, I was happy in the background, but I just thought it was old people's music, but when I saw Traviata and particularly this out
I just couldn't get it off my head and there's something very uplifting in that kind of pathos of the opera the The.
The. That was the idea that positive from VERDI's not traviata sung, thereby and on a trip coup with the vienna philharmonic conducted by collaret, see you ve said english on a body that are saved. You believe it showed your way to live and that its given you the ability to to explore and to expand in ways that you know you know physically comments
Then it was your imagination. You ve done it with your attesting ability. What impact? I wondered! You hope your art has on the people who see it. I hope that people come away feeling uplift tat. I hope that they enjoy the walk, but they also us questions about a number of difficult issues: parts as an artist. You know, I'm not a politician what I want also to engage all of their senses. You will find the hd in my work. There is also a lot of darkness too, and life is like that. You know you're, not sad every day or you're not happy every day. Let me just ask you before we hear final piece of music about how you would.
Survive alone on a desert island living you work collaboratively. Are you somebody who is easy with their own company s pose as an artist? You must actually spent quite long stretches alone at times. Well, I'd like people's confidence I'm anyone even together in own london, I have a project. Space were younger artist. Where show the people's work. I'm not one of those artists to what to hide away and never see anybody. I mean I dont like loneliness, but I enjoy solitude and there is a huge difference between. Both, but I know that I will cope on my own in ireland. An it'll be good to would. No see people every now and then tell me about your final peace. What are you gonna hear? This is Marvin Gaye what's going on at the moment. There are a number of conflicts around the world and this song continues to be relevant, its political, it's about conflict, but it's also about fine
to resolve conflict thus far. The rang there was Marvin Gaye and what's going on it's time, no income. For me to give you the books, everybody gets the complete works of shakespeare and the bible to take to their island and, of course, you get stick another along with those. What's your book going to be, I would have gulliver's drive by jonathan swift and this book that deals with all of human nature,
It also deals with the way we treat strangers and particularly in the context of the migrant crisis, and also looks at the futile nature of war, and this a book that, every time I read it, I discover new things. Ok, we shall give you that book than and a luxury, but will you will be well? I would actually have a pan to take with me and I have the fan here. Yes And that pan is a kind of everyday looking pen that I have to say yes, but the ink flows quite easily and the reason I would want to have this ban is that, because of my hands, I find it easy to do.
With it night, but I also know that I can make a whole new world. I can draw my fantasies and in my drawings wrong, would be holding hands and everyone would love each other and there and be any wars and they wouldn't be anthony, I'm an artist. After also, I would draw my utah pierre world, and can I have some paper that it would be a horrific cruelty. If a went till I get a paper. Of course you can. Yes, you can have a paper in pan your special pen to take with you great. If you could only have one of the eight discs which one would you like to save. I think I'd like to save Marvin Gaye, what's going on its use english by. Thank you very much for letting us here desert island discs. Thank you.
The you ve been into a download from the bbc. You'll find information on the radio for website bbc the code on uk slash radio for
Transcript generated on 2022-06-19.