No 4 (100) 2014
October - December

A Skateboard, Tricks and Life

A skateboard, the most essential and typical, immanent visual element of skateboard culture, has become a main topic of the exhibition by Arkadiusz Karapuda and Aleksander Ryszka, "A Skateboard, Tricks and Life".

Malwina Domagała

Historian and art critic. PhD student at the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw. She publishes texts on contemporary art.

Malwina Domagała

"WHAT IS A SKATEBOARD?" - this is the question asked in the cult - for skateboarding circles - film by Kuba Perzyna from 1996; the exhibition title has been borrowed from. An answer reads: "This is a way of life". For artists, who happened to be skaters, a skateboard has been symbol of their youth, the time when they experienced the world in its various aspects, the time when they dreamt and failed; when they learnt perseverance and decided about the choice of their own path of life.

Skater circles, active within the independent culture, have shaped points of view, lifestyles and aesthetic choices of artists who were growing up in the period of the 90's system transformations. Then young artists searched for their own way of life, at the same time for something shared by their generation, for identification with their peers abroad by means of music, films, fashion and art. Artists considered a skateboard to be a synonym of freedom, individuality, an American way of life associated with being free. Arek Karapuda remembers: "Connections with the skateboarding culture have marked my youth, and generally shaped my approach to life. Skate till you die - that was the inscription on one of my first skateboards. Since than I have been totally involved in anything I do, otherwise, I would not bother at all. Possibly, this is the trait of my character but I would rather believe that skateboarding mottos have developed, in a sense, my outlook on the world, at least in the then period. Further, this is because of a skateboard that I got familiar with films by Larry Clark, the painting by Ed Templeton, The Sonic Youth music, jazz fascinations by Chris Pastras and Stereo Sound Agency. For me the skateboard is inseparably connected with the nineties, and all this period was the most significant for me since this is when my aesthetic approach was shaped.

The skateboard, used in public space and skate posts - vast urban areas frequented by skaters, such architecture elements as low walls, curbs, smooth and flat paving or balustrades, has been showed in a specific manner on the exhibition, from the closest perspective, resulting from the translation of the artists' own experience and their skateboarding memories into the language of various media, i.e., painting, photography, video or installation. The pieces by Karapuda and Ryszka offer a specific record of the former way of life, the reminiscence of the past. The artists have registered fragments of reality, presenting a vague, nevertheless recognizable, visualization of actual sites, people and events. Aleksander Ryszka, while working on the painting series, reached into skater videos and photos in his own archive. He observes: "This has been a kind of archeological effort, an attempt at true reconstruction of sites that were not merely used to skate but first of all brought together and shaped generations of young people. I do not paint pictures that result from the reality observation in a strictly visual sense. I have been less and less interested in color that I approach merely as a painting fact, not a source of inspiration. Formal aspects are the end of a picture, not its beginning".

The exhibition concept, developed around the skateboarding subculture, has offered an interesting approach to various issues related with interpersonal links within a defined group that shares common interests and generation identification. The pictures by Ryszka, maintained in the narrow, subdued palette of gray, mauve, ochre or green, illustrate places important for skaters, however they are vague and monochromatic so as to indicate the time that passed, merely a memory. Karapuda has focused on yet another important aspect of skaters bravado performances who - in the course of doing spectacular tricks - not only earn general admiration but risk painful injuries, self destruction.

Arkadiusz Karapuda, Aleksander Ryszka, "A Skateboard, Tricks and Life", the Visiting Gallery, Warsaw, October - November 2014.