Drawing a portret of Ian in the FFM Bowl in 2017
AMBIGUOUS SKATE NATION
Frankfurt Am Main, SKTWK
I was invited by one of my first skate homies, Ian. One day he just e-mailed me: do you wanna be in a skate show in Frankfurt? I was excited, as Frankfurt is the city where I properly learned to do tricks — before that I was only riding the sidewalks and streets. The Osthafen park, a.k.a Haze Park; dropping in a bowl for the first time, with the support of 2 total strangers, a 10 year old kid and an old school, fully padded skater dad.
Frankfurt was where I started to go to the skatepark regularly by myself, discovering a different layer of the city; and if you know, you know how this feels. It's also I where learned to enjoy my own company, and to be fine with solitude — and I will not lie, nor refrain from being cheesy, skateboarding did help a lot with that. This invitation was therefore very much appreciated and meaningful to me. Also, many other artists that also skate, showed work in this gallery. SKTWK organised events all around Frankfurt. It was a nice gathering.
The work consisted of around 200 handcut stickers that the visitors could glue themselves somewhere on the gallery wall.
A web-looking network naturally started to form as the visitors came by and contributed to the composition (I realised they carefully took their time to look through the entire sticker pile before choosing one to stick on the wall! They also took their time to choose a spot to stick it. Some glued their sticker on the ceiling, on the trash bin or took one home. I enjoyed watching the visitors interact with the work so much!).
I asked Ian if he'd mind if someone would stick a sticker on his work (the cartoonesque piece of what looks like a flatbar resting on a pair of shoes), and he said he actually would be delighted if someone would do that. But nobody did and I think his gallerist is glad about it.
A mix of logos, slogans, magazine quotes, Pinterest boards, Tumblr quotes, drawings and other pop-culture / skate related iconography is turned into a collection of stickers. The images are often edited, altered or transformed. They then get juxtaposed bit by bit, similarly to the sticker wall you'd see at the check out of a skate shop but then also not really as dense, obviously.
The stickers collection is a continuously growing image bank, a selection of accumulated pictures, screenshots and texts around skateboarding; its history, its authenticity that I questioned — is this community really this wholesome? — and its relation to gender and sexuality.
While researching about skating back in the days, I found out about this, by lack of better words, sort of identity crisis within skaters, that I think nobody entirely gets, yet might be one of the most recurring thing discussed on online platforms by a certain part of the skate community.
WWjWhat does it take to be a real skater?
When looking through my piles of images in folders of saved articles and screenshots, one thing became clear to me.
To be a real skater is an ambiguous thing. And it seems to come down to giving a lot of fucks about not giving a fuck.
Just like, how to be cool, is to not care about being cool. A little ouroboros of not caring too much but then again, caring a lot about not caring too much.
I got absorbed by this existential skate question when I descended into gloomy online forums.
I got overwhelmed by the homophobia and mysoginy (that I otherwise did not experience as much in the physical reality of the skatepark and from the skatehomies).
Especially, as you could perhaps expects, in the Youtube or Instragram comment sections. My love for skateboarding and its community started to get heavily questioned.
Why was I there? I was searching for tips and tricks to give the young girls I was starting to teach skate as I observed and understood that, a big recurring topic in our skate lessons and sessions, were subjects around self confidence.
The young girls felt uncomfortable, exposed, and shamed to pull up to the skatepark, and only skated in my lessons. I couldn't understand why, until I looked these things up, and tried to imagine how it might feel when you start to skate at a young age — as opposed to me, who started to go to the parc at 23 years old — at that stage, self-image is at a totally different experience.
The question remained — who is a real skater, and what does it take to be one? And why does everything seem so hatefull?
Opposed to the real skater is the poser, "someone who acts like they can skate but cannot and make no effort to actually learn. Often this is to look cool, like just carrying a skateboard or saying you skate but often never actually skating to not break the illusion that that can skate." (source)
And you might be able to imagine how easy the skatergirl trope became the perfect subject regarding what is considered
"a poser", as the skatergirl fell, for a very long time, outside of the skate norm.
And yes, I know we are in an era where skating is getting more inclusive — in fact, we saw this change happen rapidly, and it is amazing how we got this far in this short amount of time.
Yet, when I talk with the younger generations — the teenagers and the kids — they do let me know about the hardship of getting into skating, if you're not a 'standard' boyish boy, and it is still very real.
So despite the progession, I don't want to forget that.
The insecurities, the social norms and the body awareness are all just different during different certain stages of life, depending of your social status, of the local skate community, your sexuality and gender. I get a bit mad when I hear someone say "but the skate community is so open — everybody can be a skater!"
Meanwhile my quest to find out what a real skater was, kept going. I wanted to find out what I should say to these kids and wanted to try understand how this whole thing works.
I got that, if you skate well, you are more often immediately seen as a real skater, the moment you can prove it.
Until then, when you enter the skatepark, your credibility will get questioned — especially if you don't fit in the unspoken skate rules, styles and codes.
Some say that the moment you skate, regardless of your level, you are a real skater. Others find that merit, dedication and commitment will show wether you are a real skater. For some, regardless of the tricks or level you have — what matters the most, will be your skate style.
Skaters will say that, if you are homophobe, you are not a real skater. And then another skater will say that your no-comply is gay.
There are many skaters that will say that you can only wear Thrasher if you skate. And by skating, some understand being able to kick-flip on the spot when ever they demand it. Not just stand on your board once a week trying your best, as some other skaters might say.
So to wear Thrasher, you kind of need the real skater pass. And who will give that to you?
Nobody will give you this pass. Because if you care about what others say, you are not a real skater. This is what true skaters say and think.
Some say that real skaters don't hate and don't judge — often the hippy or more mature skaters.
But then the next more mature appearing skater you meet will laugh in your face when you put on your skinny jeans.
And then they will say that you're gay.
Matter of fact skateboarders seem to be obsessed with gay, if you haven't noticed yet.
Do I wonder why? No. I don't because I know and I know you also know why.
After years of doing clinical research around the intriguing
Real Skateboarder Phenomenon (RSP), one thing became crystal clear.
If you are not a cis-hetero skater boy, it is even harder to become what skate society thinks of as
a real skater.
The judgement when you enter the skate zone will be heavier if you look too good or not good enough or if you don't look like a normal skater. On the other side, if you are a bit too cute or too hot, you will get a strange mix of adoration and distrust and it will also be weird. In a way, there is no win-win situation, unless you skate gnarly. But also, most of the time, skaters will not really care nowadays, if you do what ever the hell you want.
In fact, in certain more progressive skate zones, you will be considered annoying if you are the typical aggressive snake skater that doesn't give a fuck about others and lack of awareness. Yet that is still a big representation in the Global Skate Media.
But if you are weird, dress differently, and you skate like shit, things will get hard in the beginning — but do not get discouraged, dear skater.
In fact, most of all the crappy experiences I got from this research came mostly from online discussions and comment threads of anonymous and gloomy Instagram pages and YouTube channels.
In real life, on average, skaters will be friendly and helpful.
Even the ones that we might not expect to.
If you are weird and different, or not falling into the skater norm — or your skating is terrible — just persist with being yourself. That is probably, the most real skater thing you can do.
"Room For Improvisation"
Location: L’esprit Absolventen Show, Portikus, Frankfurt Am Main
During 4 Wednesdays of the Absolventen exhibition, a sonic improvisation took place in the Garden of Portikus while the sun was about to set.
The scenography: a secluded garden on an island, amidst Frankfurt’s skyscrapers and car traffic.There, 20 chairs collected through Germany’s famous second-handwebsite, Ebay Kleineinzage for the public and ourselves to sit on. We are suddenly surrounded by trees and geese, the cracks of amplifiers, instruments and voices.
The aim of this piece is not to be wonderfully musical nor to become a particular ear-pleaser for the crowd. It is rather the - sometimes -loooong... and complex way towards a collective synchronisation that I wish we subliminally investigate in real-time.
As a group of people who have never played together. Who might have never played at all.
The mistakes and glorious accidents and the time it takes to land on a harmony.
We have bored the listeners and woke them up at other times. Unprepared. But slowly, a trance like state mixed with the adrenaline of performing, might induce us and leave room for improvisation. Aside of being a performance, a show or a concert, it was a moment of togetherness, in a small gardenw here one could sit alone but not lonely,after a year of crisis and isolation...
Excerpt of episode 1
If you were at this expo and looked through the stickers, you might have wondered — is Thrasher really that mysoginist? (yes). Do they still publish cool skate clips? Yes. Do people really say these disgusting things on skate videos on Youtube? Yes. Do we really hate the pick-me-skater girl or do we understand that patriarchy perpetuated this stereotype? We do. And finally, who are the people that made hundreds of3D-renderings of snails skateboarding and uploaded them on sticker websites?