Date of Submission

Spring 2012

Academic Program

Film and Electronic Arts

Project Advisor 1

Benjamin Coonley

Abstract/Artist's Statement

As a longtime skateboarder, I have always been interested in documenting and examining the culture of skateboarding. Having encountered skateboard communities throughout the United States, Canada, and mainland China directly, and then further studying examples of these communities through media documentation from Europe, the Middle East, South America, and beyond, I found myself fascinated by the power of gestures to communicate ideas, feelings, attitudes, and meaning between members of these communities.

The documentation of skateboarding culture, its archivization, analysis, and discussion, are efforts of "the internal agenda of the intellectually active proponent" of skateboarding. External analysis of the history and culture of skateboarding is sparse to say the least. The internally driven documentation of skateboarding, primarily in the form of magazine publications and videos, is motivated largely by the desire of skateboarders to document and archive their progress.

“The performative nature of skateboarding's consciousness means that the image of skateboarding acquires the status of a statement- it is not only a representation of a thing, the meaning of which is clarified through text, but it is a representation of an enunciative act and hence carries meaning in a less mediated manner.”

-Skateboarding, Space and the City: Architecture and the Body by Iain Borden

The image of skateboarding, recorded, archived, and shared, carries with it a specific textual explanation. This image is proof of an event having occurred, with a specific performer, location, context, description, historical date and classification of the maneuver that is performed. The image is a historical record and serves a specific purpose. Entire skateboarding videos can be reduced, shot by shot, to textual description of the content: date, location, performer, gesture/maneuver. The history of progress in skateboarding can be similarly described.

An expert of skateboarding history would know, for example, the entire recorded history of every trick performed over the famous Wallenberg Four Stair at Wallenberg Traditional High-school in San Francisco, California. The first documentation of this location is in 1991 with Mark Gonzales's part in Blind Skateboard's Video Days, directed by Spike Jonze. Gonzales is credited with being the first skateboarder to clear the massive 4-stair gap. Along with the progress of skateboarding, the difficulty of tricks performed over Wallenberg has increased. The progression of skateboarding is driven by it's documentation. As the archive of tricks performed at the location grows, skateboarders are encouraged to try new, more difficult tricks.

Approaching skateboarding documentation with this knowledge, I wanted to embrace the “performative nature of skateboarding's consciousness” while subverting the traditional role of the image as historical artifact and functional record, all the while still striving to honor the ethos of skateboarding. During a four-month period I spent skateboarding and filming with a group of early teenage skateboarders in New York City, I focused on documenting the traditional images of skateboarding contrasted with the everyday experiences of a skateboarder. Using cell phones, disposable cameras, 35mm film, digital mini-DV tape, and any other medium readily available, I documented our lives on and off the skateboards extensively.

Following my time spent filming and skateboarding in New York, I began working with the massive archive of documents I had created. I developed rolls of film and disposable cameras, scanned images, captured hours of mini-DV tapes, transferred & converted clips from my phone, and logged audio recordings. During this time I also began working on the construction of a 16-foot wide, 24-foot long, 4-foot high mini ramp under the pavilion adjacent to the soccer fields on Bard College Campus. Logistically, I connected local skateboarder friends with the Bard community of skateboarders to facilitate construction, tracked down hardware and tools, and helped purchase extra supplies. I also worked on the physical construction of the ramp, including installing the frame, screwing down the surfacing, and installing the coping. Following completion of the ramp, I began experimenting with the structure as a space for exhibiting a video installation. This process involved procuring the necessary equipment, tools, and materials for the installation and then physically positioning them in the space. Using a time based installation involving multiple projections and live demonstrating skateboarders, I'm attempting to articulate this process of subverting the image of skateboarding as historical artifact while simultaneously performing skateboarding’s consciousness.

Distribution Options

Access restricted to On-Campus only

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

This work is protected by a Creative Commons license. Any use not permitted under that license is prohibited.

Bard Off-campus Download

Bard College faculty, staff, and students can login from off-campus by clicking on the Off-campus Download button and entering their Bard username and password.