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Hobo #15 | Rodney Graham

Since the 1970s, artist Rodney Graham has led an elastic life, leaving behind a trail of seminal works in music, photography, film, and installation. He is a chameleon as much as a re-inventor, lobbing potatoes in a London gallery one night, playing the blues for a smoke-filled bar in New York City the next. John Baldessari called him the most influential artist of our time. Graham’s work examines the relationship between nature and culture, and man’s connection to each of these abstractions, often through a Freudian lens. This spring, I sat down with Rodney at his home in Vancouver, British Columbia, the city he has remained faithful to from the start. Our night began with Santo & Johnny on vinyl and ended with Steel Panther on YouTube. A great conversation in between.

[Interview by Jules Moore]

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Hobo #6 | Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014)


December 2005

Philip Seymour Hoffman, the world’s greatest actor. No votes were cast, no ballots collected, no polls were taken. Although officially announced by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show in early October, anyone who has been actively watching film or theatre performances in the last decade would likely concur with that bold proclamation. Regardless of the medium and the size and shape of the role, Hoffman’s performances are  plays onto themselves. One doesn’t need to have studied Stanislavski’s An Actors Handbook to perceive when an actor has become a master of his art. Put aside the Tony nominations for stage performances in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night and Sam Shepard’s True West and just consider one third of his thirty-six screen performances. In order of appearance: Scotty in Boogie Nights, Brandt in The Big Lebowski, Rusty in Flawless, Phil in Magnolia, Freddie in The Talented Mr. Ripley, Joseph in State And Main, Lester in Almost Famous, Wilson in Love Liza, Dean in Punch Drunk Love, Jacob in 25th Hour, Dan in Owning Mahowney and Truman in Capote.

Philip Seymour Hoffman ingests each of these complex and varied characters with an authenticity and subtlety that sets him apart from his contemporaries. No one has maximized their screen time more than he has. No one has captured the essence of the American everyman of the early 21st century with more sincerity and conviction than he has. These men can be both lonely and funny, aggressive and vulnerable, hopeful and defeated, lost and found, often at the same time. He has captured the distinction between seeming and being and his characters stay with the audience long after the films have ended. It appears he doesn’t choose a role unless he feels the role has chosen him; that he can become the character rather than play it. He is operating with an intelligence and a level of commitment that both inspires the film’s world and the spectator’s world. We recognize ourselves in his honesty. We absorb Pushkin’s “sincerity of emotions”, the “feelings that seem true in given circumstances.” We are exposed to the art of the actor and the heart of the character every second he is on screen.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is not going to buy into the ‘world’s greatest actor’ and that’s what adds to his cachet. He has humility. He has talent. He has artistry. He has Capote.  He has momentum. We talked to Philip by phone from New York.

“The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it.” Walt Whitman, Leaves Of Grass

[Interview by Brian Hendricks / Photo by Jenny Gage & Tom Betterton]

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Hobo #15 | Charles Bukowski’s The Last Night of the Earth Poems

My wrists are rivers my fingers are words… I was nineteen or twenty when the photographer Bruce Weber turned me onto Charles Bukowski with some pieces from Notes of a Dirty Old Man. It made an impression but it wasn’t until a few years later that I really found him. An Australian girlfriend and I were renting a place on Glasgow Avenue in Bondi from an Argentine with a small but very good library. Unfortunately it was all in Spanish. All but The Last Night of the Earth Poems by Charles Bukowski. In the original Black Sparrow imprint of John Martin. Despite reminding me of the away jersey of the Chicago Blackhawks it was a gorgeous looking book. I read it and read it and read it deep into the night, the cockroaches turning the kitchen counters a mass of trembling black, dissolving like an apparition when I flicked the lights on to fill my wine glass.

Living too long takes more than time… Ah yes, the friendly wine. Writing with Bukowski was a strictly Dionysian affair. Like Aeschylus before him, Bukowski was an innovator of contemporary tragedy. I was there in his chorus swaying madly. You are the sacrifice of this ritual, he always reminded you, fingering words into little origamic spasms of our profoundly pathological world. The task of the poet is to become other, to find a new way to live.

The sun slants in like a golden sword as the odds grow shorter… Unlike say T.S. Eliot and those of his ilk whose poetry by comparison is an elaborate game performed for the literati, Bukowski is a poet of the vernacular and anti-pastoralist par excellence. Basho, a 17th century Japanese poet and influence of Bukowski also wrote for the masses in everyday language. “As I look back over the many years of my frivolous life, I remember at one time I coveted an official post with a tenure of land and at another time I was anxious to confine myself within the walls of a monastery. Yet I kept aimlessly wandering on like a cloud in the wind… it is because I believe there is no place in this world that is not an unreal dwelling.” Bondi became my Austral Asian city of lost angels and the Last Night poems my first apprenticeship to the way. I had no papers and picked an old 10-speed bicycle with maybe three working gears from the garbage that I used to get to sites all over suburban Sydney where I worked a series of laboring jobs alongside Czechs and Irish and English and Greeks and Canadians. Whatever money was left after the rent I spent on booze and books and houseplants.

In the shadows of the rose… After the girlfriend I lived on the couch and then the attic when it became vacant of a fifty-something fille de joie who rented rooms to strapping young men for fifty bucks a week or something. The closest I ever got to living in a flophouse, an arrangement highly recommended by Bukowski. Looking back, it was all a grand role-play, a terrific mask that I wore for the dance of the word. And it was all that mattered. The word, as Hannah Arendt says, “reveals the meaning of what otherwise would remain an unbearable sequence of sheer happenings.” Bukowski instilled in me the heroic ambition to no ambition but the escape from the unbearable sequence of sheer happenings. Just you and the word. Oedipus in the lap of the Sphinx. You must open your wrists for it everyday.

[Text by Thaddeus O’Neil]

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Hobo #15 | Sam Shepard’s Motel Chronicles

I’m on my fourth read of Motel Chronicles by Sam Shepard. The copy I carry around with me is a first edition and its mustard yellow and brown, duotone cover has faded to the color of pale, dusty sand. The pages are beaten and dog-eared so I can jump to a favorite short story, or a poem that cut deep into me when I first read it. I guess that’s why I keep reading it. I am chasing the feeling I experienced on the first read a line that got to a truth about being alive faster and deeper than most. The prose in this book tell us more about being a human being on this planet in a half of a page, that a lot writers can do in fifty pages.

Motel Chronicles is the collection of short stories and poetry that the Wem Wender’s film Paris, Texas evolved out of, and for which Shepard also wrote the screen play. Like Harry Dean Stanton’s character in the film, the book is populated by men lost within themselves within the landscape of the American West. Mostly autobiographical, the book reads like a scrapbook of fragmented memories. Stories of kids stealing bikes in 1950’s Pasadena, poems about insomnia, tales of the banality of movie sets, and musings on damaged fathers who live alone in the desert.

One of my favorite stories is a brief, one page of prose. It tells of a guy who lifts a worthless print of a Cottonwood Tree from the Chateau Marmont. When he gets busted stuffing it into his car and is asked why, he can only answer that it just gave him a feeling. 

[Text by Todd Cole]

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Hobo #15 | Editor’s letter

I wanted for this issue to come out sooner, in March say, when all the self-respecting biannual art/fashion magazines come out. Seems I’ve been trying to do this for ten years and never quite manage. If the subsequent issue of Hobo comes out in October, you’ll know we’ve turned a corner.

It currently feels like the reason lies in my inability to focus. My mind is starting to behave in the way it behaves when reading by way of a digital screen — needing to be constantly stimulated and interrupted. I started to look at my own work correspondence, the ashes of the magazine, and found a dissonance between ways of writing. When writing emails, thoroughness can be viewed as cold and arrogant and in the end, will lose out in efficiency to first thought, best thought, loose rambling sentences with often no regard for, nor worry for the consequences of denying the existence of: syntax, grammar and spelling. Today, the spontaneous latter has become a truer form of expression, a closer representation of feeling.

When Jeanette Hayes, one of the young New York artists photographed by Tim Barber sent her answers to our questionnaire, she asked if we could leave no punctuation and keep them in lower case because “it reads more casually which I enjoy.” Jeanette lists the Internet as the biggest influence on her work and identity. The swiftly moving stream of the Internet has trained us to indulge in distractions and take in as much information as quickly as possible — a natural interaction for an artist. What the Internet doesn’t encourage however, is the capacity for concentration and contemplation, introspection and engaged everyday writing; all of which are being devalued by society.

The thought came to mind in terms of the language of today and the levels of attention/intention it signifies, to look at the critical reception of the beat writers, specifically Kerouac, who in this really slangy immediate talk jargon of the beats, attempted to write speech as it is spoken and tried to be a kind of language realist in terms of dialogue. This irritated so many people, made a number of critics cite him for being crass, lewd, and destructive of the language. One of the most sarcastic responses came from Truman Capote, who when hearing Kerouac’s boast that he had created the original manuscript for On the Road within a three-week burst of writing, said, “That isn’t writing; it’s typing.”

Now people read him as this poet of immanence, of a direct presence. (I challenge that to some degree because a lot of it was really practiced and worked out, he experimented for several years before arriving at what Ginsberg called a “modality of consciousness” but it did try to create that sense of immediacy in talk.) What might be different though, is how that shift in spoken/written language was based in a romantic vision, of emotion and feeling, whereas the talk/communication in today’s writing is flattened out, made more distant, put through machines, made emotionless to some degree. A laugh is not an actually uttered laugh but the thought of a laugh that is marked as LOL.

Personally, I identify with the bearing of Rodney Graham’s protagonists. In “Paddler, Mouth of the Seymour,” Graham inserts himself as Max Schmitt in Thomas Eakins’ 19th century painting “The Champion Single Sculls (Max Schmitt in a Single Scull).” In this scenario, Graham himself appears dissatisfied merging on self-reflective, maybe contemplating the increasingly obsolete manner of what once was. The modernist bridge is less idyllic than the rolling hills in the original. The overarching theme though, like his other self-portraiture, is humorous and one of acceptance. There is always hope.

Perhaps it’s best to be like Harmony Korine who, at forty, has created a powerfully evocative and Dionysian film on a culture about surfaces informed by “chasing a feeling or an energy.” His Spring Breakers is a film meant to be felt not analysed, a fittingly impressionistic canvas of visual and sonic forms but with no vocabulary to help articulate it. As Marshal McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. That’s why this issue’s late.

[Text by Shawn Dogimont]

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