Hans Ulrich Obrist interview with Howard Becker

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HB [Laughs] Well, everything happens! Yes, the playwright David Mamet has a wonderful thing – I can’t find it but I know I read it somewhere – he says everybody who is in a scene in a play has a reason to be there, there is something they want, or something they have to do, or should do, otherwise they wouldn’t be there. Everybody has their own end they are pursuing in the scene. But everybody else there is pursuing their own end, so nobody can do what they want, they all have to respond to everybody else and the result, the end of the scene, is something none of them wanted and none of them anticipated. That’s sort of my view of social life, and so the method of interviewing or observing is to get as close to that as you can in order to see that happening. It sounds so hard. There’s a book that I refer to quite often. It’s by a journalist and it’s called The Making of the Wizard of Oz. Her mother was one of the seamstresses, one of the people who sewed the costumes for that movie, and the daughter became a film critic. She found everybody who was still alive who had been involved in making the movie and asked all of them, ‘What did you do? What was it like? What happened?’ (*)

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