Wednesday, September 23, 2015 at 7:30pm
Bill Daniel's Who Is Bozo Texino?
155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn
Who Is Bozo Texino?
Bill Daniel, 2005, digital projection, 56 mins
Shot over sixteen years with a Bolex and a Super-8 sound camera while the filmmaker rode freight trains throughout the West, Who Is Bozo Texino? is a poetic inquiry into the aesthetics and culture of hobo graffiti. In the decade since it first appeared, Bill Daniel’s documentary has become something of a contemporary cult classic, and serves as both a metaphor and a model of DIY production, distribution, and exhibition. Using a picaresque structure, Bozo Texino is many movies at once: a landscape film, an outsider art history, an essay on wanderlust.
The viewer is immersed in the environment of the rail system, a space of intense solitude that is nevertheless home to a hidden subculture of loose, spirited fraternity. The trains seem to constitute an interstitial world all their own, with different years and places blending seamlessly together. Daniel chronicles this milieu with remarkable, lo-fi grace, framing the open boxcar as a kind of camera itself, capturing the swelling din of machinery and the complex visual interplay of light and shadow as the trains’ silhouettes throb along rolling topographies. Through interviews with scores of hobos, shot in rail yards and on trains as they barrel across the country, we’re introduced to men with a rich panoply of monikers, some in person, but most through their drawings: Road Hog, Waterbed Lou, Palm Tree Herby, Frisco Jack, and, of course, Bozo Texino himself, represented by the almost hieroglyphic image of a smoking cowboy whose hat-brim is rendered as an infinity sign.
Daniel’s subject is a pointedly cinematic one; the experience of the nineteenth-century railway journey prepared spectators for the phenomenon of cinematic perception, and indeed locomotion was one of the medium’s inaugural subjects. Drawn on mobile train cars, and frequently subject to a continuous project of appropriation and reiteration, hobo graffiti constitutes its own brand of motion pictures, its exhibition shaped by the chance operations of vagrancy. One hobo artist known as Colossus of Roads describes “the railroad system as a network for distributing the image” which has encouraged an economy of form, a style swiftly executed with chalk or paint sticks, “pared down to a few simple lines for quick application and easy recognition.”
Eventually Daniel does track down at least one artist behind the Bozo Texino symbol, but the mysteries of its origins and evolution remain. By this point, Bozo Texino appears less as a real person than a potent icon of underground folklore, a tall tale character like Mike Fink or Paul Bunyan, but far more elusive and enigmatic. “Who is Bozo Texino?” one hobo responds to Daniel. “I have no earthly idea.”
Followed by a conversation with Daniel.
Tickets - $8, available at door.
Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.