Tamerlane Phillips Presents: Hilt!

Tamerlane Phillips Presents: Hilt! This weeks Guest: Mr. John Taki Theodoracopulos

He goes fast. He rides his bicycle all day in New York City. He is a 28 year old Bike Messenger. And an artist. He wanders and wonders. He carries five six seven eight ten packages on his back, picks them up and drops them off. All day long. And while he rams yellow cabs and shouts at them and loves the big clear blue Hemingway sky, the light, the bridges, the chunks of ice in the Hudson River, he takes pictures. He just had an exhibition, “On a night like this”, at the Work gallery, in Brooklyn, with his friend Jonah Birns. And he is now working on the making of a video that will take him around the world, from the operating room of an Irish doctor to the mount Chugach mountains in Alaska, after crossing the Atlantic Ocean on an old sexy sailing boat. We met him Downtown in the Birdbath Bakery on 7th avenue, trying to follow his fast random thoughts the time of a coffee, before he put his helmet on his curly head again, jumped on his beautiful white Pogliaghi bike and disappeared, leaving a trail that smelled like freedom.

What is it like to Bike Messenger?

You ride ride ride ride all day. And you are grumpy: it’s your job to be grumpy, and to make things happen fast. You are in a mission all day: to get threw the city as fast as you can. You have seven eight nine ten packages on you and when you finish them all you are like “how did I do that?” It’s either the best job in the world or the worst. Sometimes it can be friezing cold and windy and it rains and for some reasons it’s perfect, you are so happy. And sometimes it is the worst, and you ask yourself “why am I doing this?”

Why are you doing it?

I love it. I am always on the move. What is hard about having my own business now (John Taki has created Taki Express, a bike messenger company named after his 3 year old son): I have to be patient. Another think that I love about messengering is that you go fast, and it’s hard, but you have so much time to think, time for yourself, you are alone. And at the same time in 15 minutes you can see 4 bike messenger friends passing by, and you see all sorts of people. And when I get into a big building to drop off a package and there are 20 dead beats that get paid more then you do and they look at you in the meanest way, you feel you have so much more purpose. Being a messenger is addictive.

What is your relationship with Taxi drivers?

Do you now the movie the Duellists with Harvey Keitel? He is a French legionnere in Russia and for three decades they duel them selfs every time they see each others. People in cars are like babies, they hunk, they wine as if they had with bees on their feet.

When did you start making art?

When I was sixteen I started getting into graffiti and then I would say I was a painter. I don’t paint that much anymore: when you paint you are locked up alone. I used to need to be closed very closed in a studio and to get lost in my own space. Now I try to get lost in the world, instead of inside myself. That’ s why I started to take pictures. I guess it means growing up.

What camera do you use?

I took my pics for the show with a shitty cell phone camera. But now I am looking for a good camera, to make videos and photos with. I am hunting for the camera the way I hunt for old Campagnolo bike parts. It’s going be so fun to learn, and difficult. But it was good to go threw all this other stuff like painting to get to want to use a real camera. It’s like wanting to live in all this other places, Paris, Rome, Los Angeles, to then come back to New York. I wasn’t ready before to live here. Now I am. New York is cold, pizza, (not “cold pizza”), big clear blue Hemingway sky, riding over the bridges, the chunks of ice in the Hudson river, like when the plane landed on it. I was in a building, 601 West 26th street: I could see it perfectly. I saw people that looked like they were walking on the water cause they were on the wings. New York is like riding in the Grand Canyon: a dark street and then you get to an intersection and its’ sunny, you go threw and it warms you. It’s like being in a valley. And the Alley Cats, the totally illegal street races are so much fun. As much as going from Brooklyn to over the Manhattan Bridge, on the West Side Highway over the George Washington Bridge to Bear Mountain.

Tell me more about your art.

I hate talking about art. Don’t talk too much, do! I am going to start filming. I watched a BBC doc on ubu.com about Francis Bacon and It helped to come up with the idea of the film. It’s gonna be about doctor Kennedy and powder skiing in the Chugach and sailing. I have the story in me, I don’t want to put it into words. That’s another thing I liked about the BBC doc: Bacon said “this painting works”. And the journalist asked why? “I don’t know, it just does.”

Who else are you into?

Scott Fitzgerald: he wrote is The night as if he had lived a all life but he was only in his early twenties. Then Henry Miller who wrote Quite Days in Clichy. And Somerset Maugham who wrote The Razors Edge: I love Larry Darrel. And Hemingway with all his amazing characters: from the girl who will always love him even if they can’t make love, to the girls waiting for men to get them drunk and feed them dinner, to the models and the painters getting wild in the caffes.

What about living people?

Dick Chaney who is Doctor Strangelove in a wheal chair with the black leather gloves and he can’t stop himself from giving the nazi salut. And my friends: genius Jupiter Jones; those I sail with on old boats with dead but alive wood stretching; my Alley Cat competitors with eyes glazed and hearts pumping and so much respect even if we are trying to kill each other. And last but not the least my children and Assia.