Length: 52 min.
Format: 16:9, HD
Language: German, English, French
Directed by: Michael Trabitzsch
Year: 2017

Today, David Hockney is more famous and his works more sought-after than ever. In celebration of his 80th birthday in 2017, the Tate Modern and the Centre Pompidou are jointly presenting a large-scale exhibition dedicated to his work. The curator in Paris is Didier Ottinger. We have already worked with him previously on a documentary for ARTE on Max Beckmann.
“I draw the world–I draw myself.” Hockney has said. Right from the start he has been involved in an ongoing dialogue with his era. In doing so, he has used every format and artistic medium available to him: painting, drawing, installation, stage design, photography, collage, and mobile phone…
It represents a considerable oeuvre and also, in the meantime, a long life in the public eye. A documentary, a film, must choose what to include – to provide a clear thread, to become immersed in the illusion, encompassing the whole body of work, his whole life and everything that accompanied it.
Which is why we choose to focus on those locations in his life that have strongly influenced his work. We don’t want to take his biography as the leitmotif to explain the pictures in terms of his life. But his life and choice of locations remain the guiding force for the leitmotif, beginning early on and concluding in the present.
We will use a substantial amount of archive footage in order to highlight the various phases of his oeuvre in relation to the places where he has lived and worked, and in this way return to him; he and his “exposure” are as important as the locations themselves in order to enable both us and the audience to get close to an artist who, although he does not avoid the public gaze, is nevertheless not easy to “unlock” and portray. But that is exactly where the element of tension in a documentary lies… finally being able to offer a key in order to move closer to the artist.

Hockney grew up in England, fleeing small-town constraints to live in California and has worked in Paris, London and New York, later returning to England, where he resides today. His work initially had a certain similarity to Francis Bacon, was soon ascribed to the Pop Art scene, when he began his “Swimming Pool” series, painting portraits, stage sets, began working with photography and landscapes, experimenting… 

What we aim to create is a tension. An expectation about that which then becomes even more evident in the works themselves. But the works are not to be taken as mere evidence for a narrated biography. Here it is a question of art, about something that is more than the merely visible. The audience has to remain expectant about the dialogue between Hockney and the world and the selected works.

This discourse will be conducted by a maximum of three art historians; their function will be to provide explanatory descriptions, elucidating on what could be seen as a connection between image and work and artist. In this function the form is there to increase the tension contained within the pictures, and not as experts invariably do, to provide statements or opinions. They will appear a number of times in short clips/episodes and will form a part of the whole narration and, alongside the commentary, provide the audience with an essential orientation.

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