The Philosophy of TAO: filmmaker, photographer, musician, on being.

The Philosophy of TAO: filmmaker, photographer, musician, on being.

A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end...but not necessarily in that order. - Jean-Luc Godard

Tao Ruspoli is a metaphysical symphony; currently having a moment in the Mojave Desert. Unexpectedly, he has found himself on a newfound compound, "The Whole" in Yucca Valley; amongst the vast climate of California sky, San Gabriel mountains and Joshua Trees. An enigma by nature we look to scratch the surface of the diamond that is his mind. 



A self-taught photographer he began documenting the world around him in high school. Before everyone had phones and everything else we have nowadays it was unusual to photograph–Tao had a 35mm Pentax that he used to photograph and develop his own film in the darkroom. And this is still something he practices daily.

The show OTHER PLACES is about his love for travel. In his words, "When you travel your antennas are up in a way they're not when you're in a familiar place. So, there's something great about being in other places; that otherness makes everything else show up as fresh. And that is why I've always loved to tune in to feel everything around me. And that is easier to do when you're in some place new. And so I've sought that out my whole life–And I've amassed hundreds of thousands of photographs of people, places and things. For this show we wanted to focus on the places. So this is 9 of the best landscapes taken all around the world–in Thailand, Egypt, Ireland, Italy, Spain, large format."


The natural extension of photography. Film is where Tao finds he can express more ideas explicitly. The class that changes everything was, Existentialism in Film + Literature at UC Berkeley in the 90's. In this class is where he discovered film as a great medium to explore philosophy and philosophical approaches to life. Because Tao really loves philosophy. And film combines everything. And he's interested in everything. History. Theatre and Literature. Architecture. Also, there is design inside a film; literature, writing, music in the soundtrack, storytelling and of course, photography. It's all there–there is nothing that is not included.

I ask him where he gets the inspiration. He responds, "You just hope for the inspiration that will guide you enough to make you follow through with something; then it's not even up to you anymore. You just get swept up in something and you get other people involved. And that's another reason why I love film is beacuse it's collaborative. And that is one of the big lessons I've learned recently is that you have accept that certain things about yourself you're not going to be able to change. And you're better off finding other people that compliment your skills and talents and you compliment theirs and you create something together. Even if it is a show! Like working with Cheryl has been great! And she is bringing it all together. I think that is the best thing. When you land on an idea or project and it motivates enough people to make sure that it happens. Whether it's the Bombay Beach Biennale, a photography show, a movie. Suddenly it gets its own momentum. And you don't have any other option; you have to do it. l love that."


I ask Tao if he is happy about how Year 0 for the Biennale played out and he expresses the event was fantastic! All of his expectations were blown away and exceeded his wildest dreams.  Read here. 


Tao collects things; RVs, plants, instruments, photographs, memories...Currently he is in a band, Recreational Vehicle, a dream band that was born in his Kinomad (Portmanteau for Kinomad = "Kino" is Film in Russian + Nomad) over the holidays. Future tour dates TBA. Album: Driving Fast in the Slow Lane. Tracks 1 + 2: Full Hookup, Traffic Jam.

The Desert has pulled him closer to the music which he considers to be the most pure art form. He expresses, "It's the least representational art form; you're not pointing at something outside of it. It's just itself. I love that its evidence of the transcendental in a way–because you can't really tell a compelling story of why we make music. It's extra. And we find this amazing beauty, and these patterns, and these sounds. So, I've always loved music. Always played guitar and now I'm learning to make electronic music.


We are talking about his move from Venice >> The Desert.

V: This was all on a whim?

Tao: Not really a whim. It was instigated by a disaster. The neighbors complained to the city and I was busted for my trailers. At first I was angry at the city and the neighbor and I felt is was really not in the Spirit of Venice. Then my Mom says, "Tao if you really believe in peace between nations and fostering a more evolved way of being it starts with your neighbors. If you cannot get a long with your neighbors, y'know, how do you expect countries to get along?" 

And I realized if you have angry feeling it's you that carries that around, not the person you are angry towards. And even worse if you act on that, it usually reinforces their position of being right and all of those feelings are overrated–who cares who's right. Just get along with each other. So, I thought, WOW. I want to buy them a bottle of wine! They really instigated a change that I am so grateful for and now I feel bad if I made the neighbors suffer. And if they're reading this I hope they're ok. 


"The best art is always a dialog with the medium. It is not just you imposing something."- Tao Ruspoli

V: Where do you get your ideas?

Tao: Where does anybody get their ideas? It's like fishing. Like David Lynch said, 'It's like fishing. You need some patience and some bait. Desire is the bait. If you catch the fish at the top where it's shallow they're small and uninteresting. And if you go deep the water is like the unconscious, and the deeper you go the bigger the fish' A great David Lynch analogy." The best art is always a dialog within the medium; its not just you imposing something. It's like push/pull. It's the tension. It's the attention. And where the magic happens. Because it's like someone says in my film, Being in the World, "If you can choose anything–or manipulate things in anyway you want, you're a sovereign of a land of nothing. You're a king without a castle. Because there needs to be something in the world that pushes back for it show up as meaningful.


Photo credit: self-portrait by artist.