Curiosity: an interview with Mike Hoolboom by Matteo Marelli (November 2016)


Filmmaker Festival, Milano, Italy

Matteo: What is the genesis of Incident Reports (70 minutes 2016)?

Mike: It began, like all of the important encounters in my life, by accident. When we will open a school for accidents? While cycling too quickly, which is the only way to ride, I was sideswiped by a car and met the ground without a helmet. I lost my memory and began audio-visual rehab. Only last week I was in Amsterdam where a well-lubricated elderly gent staggering down the street bellowed out the words to his fave song: “No! No! No! I don’t want to go to rehab.” But I am a fan of second chances, and being offered the chance to meet old friends and new as if I was someone else was an irresistible invitation.

Incident Reports is a city portrait and love story made in one-minute shots. It allowed me to step away from my primary relationship, which of course is with my computer universe, and live in my body again. Though we have since made up for lost time, and now I hardly ever leave the screen, which appears as both an endlessly needy infant and a stern parental figure. Perhaps good fortune will strike again, and another accident will derail these close attentions.

Matteo: What is the genesis of We Make Couples (60 minutes 2016)?

Mike: It began with the charmed couple who appear in the movie, Erin and Andrea, who speak as if language were something that could be invented again and again. Erin is one of those poets who turns everyone around her into a language artist, while Andrea is forever offering poses that turn her company into questions that never need to be answered.

When I was strapping on my first pair of jeans, many moons ago, couples seemed part of the old world, where money seemed bent on turning us into workers and bosses, even in our homes. Especially in our homes. But perhaps the couple could be the beginnings of resistance, an alternative to buying in and climbing the ladder, not a retreat from politics, but the beginnings of new forms of collectivity, another way to say yes together.

Matteo: You are engaged in many activities: cinema, online projects… What is the profession in which you recognize yourself?

Mike: It’s so rare that anyone takes the time to write about the difficult movies I have spent my life soaking in. I arrived via a punk moment which insisted that we all do it for ourselves, hacking systems when we didn’t know how. So it seemed important to create word frames for these pictures, sometimes by writing about them, or offering a movie in reaction shot, or interviewing the artist. I’ve published a few books that include artist interviews, the question of how to give artists a voice remains a central region.

Matteo: Incident Reports and We Make Couples are situated at the intersection of documentary and experimental film. Do you feel like it’s even fair to speak of them as separate?

Mike: Well I think they are very separate when they appear on television, or rather, when documentaries appear and experimentalisms vanish on the home screen. Ditto for most doc fests, which rush past artist movies, tagging them as aestheticisms, insider code worlds. My work lives on the border between these two concerns, even as too many are busy drawing boundaries, laying out fealty altars and canons of great works and workers. In this moment of overproduction, it’s difficult to reach audiences who might be interested, how to find one’s way through the wall of noise, the overproduction that capitalism requires? My work is about sex, death, illness, love, it goes down easy and is not intended for hyper-specialists who have seen it all, but for the curious and open-hearted. And let’s not forget about beauty, genitals, the act of seeing with one’s own eyes, the proximity of bodies, and how we might balance the impossible and the ridiculous with one eye while we absorb fringe movies with the other.