6 juni 2011

MAY BE

This time, the wheels were set in motion by a misunderstanding. Someone told our Danish friends Thursday may be construction day at Steppen. Our Danish friends do not hear "may be" and they come over, ready to roll. This shift in gravity has us stumbling around, getting ready to get serious. By our standards. Serious enough to get shovels and shaping tools, carry water, dig for dirt, pile up 12 bags of cement and call for more people to come help. Serious, by our standards. With a great deal of help from our friends.

Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways and be wise.
/ King Solomon, the Book of Proverbs, chapter six

One way for a group of people to reach higher levels of group functioning, is to gather around a common task. This forces group members take initiative, communicate and work through conflicts. Add the stress of hardening concrete, to be shaped by a band of skaters with differing opinions on skate terrain, and group dynamics will reach red alert levels. This group (if it can be considered a group) walks a narrow path, on its ascent to higher grounds.

TAKE CONTROL
The path could be straightened out, paved for mass transportation and mapped. That way, the goal could be reached in shorter time, with less effort, and with a more predictable end result. One way to achieve this, is to set standards. If all members of the work force share an understanding of how things should be done and what the final product should look like, there will be less diversion. Clear leadership and specialization within the group also help. People will walk in straight lines and achieve great things. In much the same way, industrial production aims at multiplying things efficiently, according to a strict standard; there is a prototype, a pattern to apply, and diversions from the original are considered flaws. We experienced this when Stefan Hauser came to Savannen and showed us how to mix and shape concrete. We instantly recognised this as "PTR standard" and our methods were forever changed. A bit industrialized, if you like.  
ENJOY THE RIDE
By now, you probably know where this text is heading. Off the map, into space, out there, where the journey is the goal. Into the realm of art and the creative process. From this perspective, Steppen is a sculpture, an installation, a social experiment and a canvas for the art of skateboarding and graffiti. This, of course, is also political practice, a challenge to the capitalist agenda of work as a mean to create accumulative wealth, and to the social relations that follow from the culture of growth and competition.
 
Most concrete skateparks fall into the Andy Warhol category of art. They are versions of a well-known, working, pop(ular) concept. With all respect to Warhol and to these parks, when it comes to my construction acitivities, I'm more of a Hunter S. Thompson type of person - get in there, fuck things up and ride it out! 
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. /HST

Our Danish friends shook their heads in disbelief, as different people grabbed shaping tools and made their interpretations of this corner pocket (most seemed to share the vision of a corner pocket, or so it seemed). Some put all effort into making it as high as possible, some focused on shaping the lip, some carried concrete around to the back to stabilize the whole thing, while others were stoked to try some basic shaping or feeding the fire. These things were poorly coordinated, on the verge of chaos. And our Danish friends shook their heads in disbelief. Not professional enough. Not the way it should be done. The way its done by the pros.

True. Not very professional. And, from a professional perspective, less accurate, less efficient, less less less... According to Wikipedia, >>a professional is a member of a vocation founded upon specialized educational training. [...] The term professional is used more generally to denote a white collar working person, or a person who performs commercially in a field typically reserved for hobbyists or amateurs.<< Which pretty much makes us hobbyists or amateurs. On the other hand, it puts the pro in a white collar / commercial category.

Industry or art? Amateur or pro? Where are you and, more importantly, where do you want to be? What kinds of projects do you want to be a part of? To keep skateboarding alive, we need all kinds, especially the ones not yet known.

TEMPORARY
 At Steppen, the fence around the vacant lot has been taken down. We're exposed to passers-by and traffic. Next door, an art gallery is becoming more popular, with a café, exhibitions and hipster happenings. Gentrification. Newspapers have published architectural plans for the area, showing a big, white cube on the spot of Step-it-up-side; probably an apartment complex for the modern urban life-style. 

How many years, months or days do we have left? We try to keep the place clean, to post-pone the inevitable. In the meantime, the experiments - in concrete and the abstract - will continue. As will the skating. The will to skate the shapes of skateboarding to come. Hup! Hup!