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00:00 : The film begins with the sun rising behind a mountain. The sky is mauve. We hear insect sounds bird songs, horse clip-clopping.
00:06 : In the distance, a man on horseback rides slowly through tall grass toward the camera. Behind him are mountains.He is wearing a cowboy hat and a neckerchief, and has a guitar slung over his back.
01:00 : The rider crosses the landscape from right to left.
01:12 : He rides into a shallow stream littered with rocks. With each step, his horse splashes up water into the sunlight.
02:00 : In close-up, a river is flowing in eddies and swirls.
02:08 : The river runs beside a rocky bank.
02:17 : Wildflowers sway in the wind.
02:27 : The wind rustles the leaves in a little stand of trees. Nearby, the man is sitting on a large fallen tree trunk and playing the guitar. Beside him, the horse is grazing.
02:51 : “I’ve been following this pal o’ mine”
02:58 : “Through the canyons of my wasted time”
03:08 : “Headed for the setting sun, just shy of 21”
03:15 : “City life just got me down”
03:22 : “Seems I was an encumbrance on that god-forsaken town”
03:31 : “Figured it was time to start just wanderin’ around”
03:47 : The man and his horse are alone in the rugged open landscape. Beyond them are sparsely vegetated hills.
03:57 : “Ever like a little cloud on high”
04:05 : “I’ll be a drifter ‘til the day that I die”
04:12 : “As to his opinion of the sedentary life”
04:20 : “My father once told me”
04:28 : “He said, ‘When folks can bear the sight”
04:32 : “Of a solitary type”
04:36 : “I’ll tell you how I came to be”
04:42 : “A ramblin’ man”
04:49 : “I’ll tell you how I came to be”
04:54 : “Just a ramblin’ man’”
05:15 : The man stops playing guitar. He stands and walks to his horse. Return of the insect sounds and the bird songs.
05:33 : The man mounts his horse and goes on his way. Return of the horse clip-clopping sounds.
05:45 : The wildflowers seen earlier are swaying in the wind.
05:53 : The same river runs beside a rocky bank.
06:01 : The water is flowing in eddies and swirls.
06:10 : Reversing direction, the man rides back into the stream seen at the beginning.
07:12 : He crosses the landscape from left to right.
07:22 : The man rides slowly through the tall grass. Beyond him are mountains.
08:38 : He continues into the distance toward the mountains.
08:53 : The film ends on the same mauve sky behind a chain of mountains.
(b. Abbotsford, British Columbia, 1949)
How I Became a Ramblin’ Man
35 mm colour film transferred to DVD, loop projection, sound, 9 min
Purchased in 2001
Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, A 01 10 I
© Rodney Graham
In How I Became a Ramblin’ Man, shot in widescreen format, Rodney Graham casts himself in the role of a cowboy roaming a pastoral British Columbia landscape on horseback. The opening minutes of the soundtrack evoke the surrounding nature: lapping water, clip-clopping horse hooves and leaves rustling in the wind. Then Graham dismounts to sing a song about a solitary man. At the end of the ballad, he gets back in the saddle and disappears into the tall grass, with his guitar on his back. In this film, the artist revisits the lonesome cowboy myth perpetuated in western movies and country music.
Rodney Graham, associated with Photoconceptualism, works in mediums ranging from photography, video and music to performance, installation and painting. Many of his works take the form of cyclical narratives peppered with cinematic, musical, philosophical and literary references. Steeped in humour, they blur the line between contemporary art and popular culture. How I Became a Ramblin’ Man, the second of a trilogy of films in which Graham plays the main character, is a synthesis of his engagement with movies and music.