Last night (Saturday, May 31, 2014) I had the privilege of attending Hal Samples private screening of his documentary Something from Nothing. It followed the journey of how Hal Samples met one distinctive individual, Tachowa Covington, one serendipitous day while visiting Los Angeles. Hal Samples, has long worked with the homeless taking their portraits and making them visible to a world that would rather forget them. Tachowa was not exactly homeless though. He was and is an ingenious man who turns what society deems as trash into treasure. He turned an abandoned, rusted out water tank into an art piece/home and invited Hal and Dylan to come visit it.
Upon meeting Hal on the street where Tachowa a.k.a Rollerball was known to roller-blade in the area in a self-made suit of armor, Tachowa approached him and told him that he had seen him in a dream and Hal was going to make a movie about him. The only thing was there were two cameramen in the dream. What a coincidence that Hal happened to be in town with his friend and fellow photographer Dylan Hollingsworth!
What unfolds is a story in human ingenuity and true humanity. Tachowa has his faults just like all of us, however, he continually reminds us that we are not just a cog in the machine of society. We are part of a grander Existence and we should strive to do more than fit neatly into a place that is manufactured and far from our natural state of being.
From The Independent in an article by Tim Walker:
‘ “I watched it for a month or so,” Covington recalls. “Eventually, I climbed inside and saw that it was empty. I thought, ‘Wow. This would be a cool place to make a house.’ I picked it as a sanctuary, a place to kick back, to be close to God and to the ocean.”
Getting inside was a challenge: you had to scale a ladder, clamber on to the tank and climb in through a hatch at the top. But Covington was undeterred. He sanded the rust from the walls and repainted the interior. He salvaged plywood from the alleys of nearby neighbourhoods and made a level floor. He built shelves, and fixed pictures to the walls with magnets. He broke down a sofa and a king-size bed, squeezed the parts through the hatch, and then reconstructed them inside, like ships in a bottle. “It started more as an art piece,” he says, “but then it became a home.”
The police, apparently charmed by this friendly eccentric, would leave him alone when they came to clear vagrants from the hillside, sometimes calling up to the tank to say hello. The US postal service delivered mail to his exclusive address: 15145 Pacific Coast Highway. “People left me alone because they thought it was an empty tank and I was just climbing up there with a sleeping bag,” he says. “But I was building inside the whole time.”
After a few years of work, the tank had a generator which powered lights, a stereo, a TV, even a set of security cameras.” ‘ – http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/the-water-tank-the-banksy-prank-and-the-later-life-of-the-homeless-elephant-man-tachowa-covington-8735581.html
Tachowa lived in this home for several years until one day Banksy happened across it and spray painted the words “This looks a bit like an elephant.” Once news got out that Banksy had done this, the site became a tourist attraction and the tank was snapped up by an organization called Mint Currency to be sold as an art piece.
The true artwork was held within the tank and that artwork was now the lost home of Tachowa. However, that did not stop this man and his story. Tachowa became the subject of a play, Banksy: The Room in the Elephant, by Tom Wainwright and ended up traveling to the U.K. for performances of that play. Hal accompanied Tachowa on this chapter of his life’s journey and the reactions of people to him and his story are just amazing. One thing that really struck me was how Tachowa who always seemed to have a smart quip or reply seemed to become more introspective. I asked Hal about this and was told that Tachowa has been humbled by this whole experience, the good and the bad. He continues to grow and see the world in ways that many of us never will.
Tachowa has since lived in several innovative homes that he has made for himself but is currently living in a tent that overlooks the site of his beloved palace tank. This man truly is human royalty through his use of the color purple in his dress to the way he looks at this world and the people in it. Another moment, I’ll never forget in the film is Tachowa looking out over the old site with a tear in his eye. Truly a poignant moment. Again, this is not the end of this story. Tachowa continues to inspire and his friendship with Hal continues on. The documentary was about 40 minutes long and Hal plans on making this into a feature length film. The version shown was made to play along performances of Banksy: The Room in the Elephant.
Also at this event was artwork by Travis Randall Sykes of which a couple of pieces are featured here. The works are a perfect accompaniment to the documentary, Tachowa’s message, and to the Hal’s work.
In addition, the evening included a beautiful musical performance from Ashley Myrick who also provided great insight to the film having worked as an editor of the film. Ashley stated that she has viewed this work several times now and each time it’s something different and the whole experience is something that is hard to completely wrap your head around. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve only seen this documentary once and I’ve been thinking about it all day. I know there is probably a lot more I could say and I hope I have not left out any facts or used any distorted information that I have gleaned from other sources as this story was not just about Tachowa but also about Hal and his compassion for his fellow humans.