AG It reminds me of the masking element in Mister Lonely, and also in Trash Humpers. There’s this weird, not even really androgynous misgendering that’s happening, which sounds like deliberate confusion of gender binary.
HK Yeah, exactly. But for him, it’s not even any of that—it’s just very simple, just feels good. There’s no shame.
AG He inhabits any role that he wants. It’s almost about privilege, in a way.
HK Maybe—privilege or freedom, depending on how you look at it. He’s a libertine.
AG You referred to Florida as this place where things happen “at night.” The cinematography in both Spring Breakers and The Beach Bum is from the same person, Benoît Debie, who also works with Gaspar Noé and whose approach to ambience and light is hyper-emphasized. That certainly speaks to your interest in depicting a nocturnal experience, while also pushing this kind of ‘90s aesthetic in how it depicts nightlife here and the entertainment industry.
HK Yeah. With Benoît, you talk about the visuals, and it’s closer to making paintings in some way. A lot of it has to do with the colors and the grain structure and the movement. I want the films to be super vivid and really push the saturation. It’s about a specific vibration, and I guess that’s why I’m attracted to Florida.
AG That brings us to your painting, which until recently was a repressed or lesser-known part of your practice, although you have a long-standing relationship with Larry Gagosian. How does visual art exist alongside your work as a filmmaker?
HK I was always making art, even as a kid. I started showing work from my early twenties at a couple of different galleries, especially Patrick Painter gallery. I met Patrick through Mike Kelley, who was really close to him back then. Then movies started to consume me; I kept working on the art, but more as a private thing. It wasn’t until around ten years ago that I really got into it, and that’s when Larry and I got together.
AG A few years ago, you made a small group of paintings that reference Miami and the vulgarity of boating.
HK Everyone here has yachts with names, so I thought it’d be interesting to make watercolor paintings of yachts with names turned to porn titles, specifically porn titles with references to movies, like Boom Raver or Star Whores. I think I made fifteen of these and never really showed them, I called them “Adult Boating,” because only douchebags have boats. I just think it’s funny.
AG Was that the first group of paintings inspired by Miami?
HK Yeah, I think so! You’re always seeing boats here. I saw this one named Easy Rider, and it just kind of cracked me up. With my most recent body of work, at first I construct images on the phone using different art apps, and then I remake them with oil on canvas. They all revolve around this cosmic light-form little bastard Twitchy who just jumps around, kind of sexless, opaque. It’s something I’ve been drawing since I was a kid. It’s the easiest thing to draw, but I don’t know what it is—it just gives me comfort.
AG It’s hysterical you call Twitchy “cosmic light-form.” He appears to me almost like an evil doll, like character or a specter, and he pops up in all these domestic Florida scenes around your house and life. There’s something menacing or esoteric about him, no?
HK It’s weird you think he’s scary—I thought he was kind of funny. I guess he could be. You know, that also happens with movie sometimes. When I was making Gummo (1997), I thought it was a 50% comedy. But for the audience, those first movies were very severe.
AG Obviously Kids and your first three movies—Gummo, Julien Donkey-Boy (1999) and Mister Lonely—have a tragic quality, but they’re not capital-T Tragedy. I would say they are—I don’t know if you’d use this word—a “punk” kind of tragic form. Kids is a punch in the gut.
HK And I liked that at the time. It was a reflection of how I was feeling, the anger, and as a kid, I enjoyed the element of provocation. I felt like I was feeling so much, and I wanted to put it out there. I was excited to get a reaction. I wanted to make things that were hard-hitting and inscrutable in some ways. At that point, I was really just starting out and trying to figure out what my idea of narrative was, how I could play around this idea of images falling from the sky.
AG So those are your cold-blooded movies and these are your warm-blooded movies.
HK Yes! There you go, Alex. I like that, never thought about it that way. It’s all about the weather. Well, the cold is good for the intellect and the warm is good for the heart.
AG That’s a cliché that in aggressive forms was once used to defend eugenics.
HK Yes, but it’s true. Your mind slows down in the tropics.
AG Oh, no!
HK No, but it’s a good thing. It stops racing. I don’t even watch many movies anymore—I watch the sunset now!