A magazine about the Creative Culture of Skateboarding
Unfortunately for the ladies of Skate Kitchen, the broad and tactless strokes of Moselle cannot animate the nuanced humanity at the center of her film. At no point do we question whether we are watching a documentary or a drama. Where the macho demeanor of KIDS is defined by its refusal to be genuine, the empowered feminine narrative of Skate Kitchen is defined by its capacity to be genuine. Except that the film continuously misses the mark for genuine. Thanks to Moselle, Skate Kitchen dances around a hulking, unignorable vacancy where the story’s humanity should be. Skate Kitchen is very close to being a great film because it’s filled with a bunch of young ladies who we already love. And in the film, we watch these young women challenge themselves to try something new, and do their best job on someone else’s project. But Moselle’s facile summation of these striking young women robs them of the power they command, and diminishes the electric nature of their character to a sputtering sizzle buried amidst the bright lights and the thundering of heavy handed film-making. And perhaps that is the essential dilemma here: as skateboarders, we find ourselves watching another film that wants to market what we do without understanding, or truly valuing what we do. A lot is changing in skateboarding, but whether they focus on men or women, it seems we still face the same dilemmas when outsiders seek to profit from our culture.
Text & Photos by
. . .
Since at least the late 1980s skateboarders have been accompanied by photographers and filmers. Unlike other sports where achievements are summarized with names and numbers (whether points or stats), skateboarding can only be summarized with visual documents. That is because the achievements in skateboarding are not codified, they’re not quantifiable. If you say skater #1 kickflipped a 5 stair, and skater #2 ollied a 10 stair then you haven’t summarized what went down. That is because skateboarding’s value is largely determined by nuances. Unlike other sports where scoring points is the outcome, in skateboarding the style of how something gets done is just as important–if not more important–than the actual trick. And because the terrain in skateboarding is far from uniform, some visual reference for the actual terrain is always necessary to tell the story. In basketball it doesn’t matter how you look when you score, if the ball goes in the points are going up. In skateboarding if you don’t look smooth when you do a trick it doesn’t matter how hard it is, it didn’t count. So, in skateboarding, you truly achieve within the culture of the sport when you document yourself performing the absolute best renditions of the tricks you’re capable of. Only the smoothest makes are shared with the world, all the failed attempts, or roughshod renditions are discarded. It’s a lot like musicians who edit together the best takes to create a recording of a song.
And so, as the internet democratized the consumption of content by placing all individuals on a single shared network, skateboarders experienced a unique transcendence. Suddenly all of those skateboarders who were outside of the industry’s channels of consumption and broadcast were now placed on a single channel along with the industry. All those people around the country who had been filming their own videos, shooting their own photos, and doing their own rendition of keeping up with the big videos and the
magazines, were now in direct contact with one another. The result has certainly shaken the industry up, and changed what goes down, but it hasn’t changed how business gets done. And as a result of all the commercial glory that comes from garnering major web traffic, skateboarders have successfully negotiated long-standing, and seemingly fruitful relationships with major multinational corporate entities. Nike, Levi’s, Monster, Red Bull, and similar corporations aren’t making money off of skateboarding. They’re working with skateboarders, on terms set by skateboarders. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of skateboarders partnering with major corporations than SLS, and the world championship finals that took place at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, on September 15.
For one night a crowd of thousands of enthusiastic, and slightly unhinged fans gathered to watch some of skateboarding’s most potent practitioners unleash their talents on a specially-built course designed by skateboarders. Make no mistake, this is far from the first X-Games where the street course was little more than a deconstructed vert ramp with a 20 stair handrail thrown in the mix. The course here featured actual poured concrete for many of the obstacles, and a layout that allowed skaters to utilize a variety of obstacles in unique ways while flowing back and forth between the 2 sides of the course. I overheard 2 skaters complain that this was “The worst course of the season,” but that was Nyjah Huston and Shane O’Neill. Those also happen to be the 2 skaters who seem to have a different take on these competitions.
. . .
. . .
When people assert that it’s ok to use nazi propaganda in the way that Jason Jesse has, I get agitated. Racists who don’t want to publicize their hate, but wish to assert their power, insist that the swastika is merely a symbol of disruption, a subversive tool of great value being used against an uptight establishment. This is false. Swastikas are a symbol unique to nazis, the only thing they signify is hate and death for non-whites. Swastikas don’t subvert any institution, they just cause pain. In Germany you go to prison for swastikas because Germans have a clear understanding of how hateful rhetoric can quickly escalate to something much more sinister and malicious than disrupting the status quo. Somehow our nation saw the need to defeat the nazis, yet our government allows our citizens to continue the work of the nazis on our own soil. I truly don’t understand how swastikas haven’t been outlawed.
Jason Jesse’s apology letter wasn’t bad, or offensive. But his APOLOGY was not believable, because in the comments section of his post racists began asserting that Jesse’s apology was unwarranted, and racists made derogatory comments. None of those comments endorsing the values that Jesse had just supposedly denounced were addressed by Jesse. He just let a bunch of other racists do the talking for him. However, I know he was policing his instagram because he blocked me after I asserted that he needed to do more if he wants Jewish people to actually believe the words he said. If he has truly changed, wouldn’t he want to have a dialogue with a Jewish person who is skeptical of his apology? Shouldn’t I be one of his first allies, rather than a person whose existence he can’t bare to see on social media? Which only makes what is obvious to minorities apparent to everyone else: he’s still doing racist shit.
. . .
. . .
Donald Glover is a brand, using “This Is America” to position himself in the public eye. His positioning has everything to do with how much money he can or can’t ask for in exchange for each episode of the next season of Atlanta, and it has everything to do with how much of a guarantee he can demand for each stop on his next tour. Jase Harley, on the other hand, is an artist using his creative skills to enhance a life that is limited by his role as a citizen laborer. And no matter how famous Jase Harley’s ideas may be, Jason Christopher is only going to be paid 20% by Society6 if you purchase his art there, and Bandcamp will still take the same fee when Jason Christopher sells a single download, and Instagram will still charge Jason Christopher the same fee to market his music to his own followers.
When Christopher has an idea that could have a tremendous impact on his community it’s up to him to bring it to life. In order for Christopher to get paid a small amount, he first has to generate a small amount of revenue for someone in Glover’s position. Then Christopher takes the money that he earns, and pours it into a project he believes in. It’s a terribly oppressive systems that guarantees that rich people in Glover’s position get richer any time virtuous people like Christopher decide to invest money into themselves or their community. But when Donald Glover has an idea for a project WMG and Fox just write a check. Donald Glover is the elite capitalist living high on the hog, and Jason Christopher is the citizen laborer whose only recognized value as a creative is the fees he pays to services like soundcloud, bandcamp, Distro Kid, Society6, and other similar services.
. . .