Hannah Dubois, Ollie by Taylor, 2022, duratrans print mounted in lightbox, 26 x 38 inches framed. Courtesy of the artist
WHEN PATRIK ANDERSSON began working on Out of Control: The Concrete Art of Skateboarding, a major new exhibition at Audain Art Museum, he was clear on what wouldn’t be part of the show. Flips and shove-it tricks are not the focus, and there’s no tribute to legend Tony Hawk.
“I tried very hard—and it was quite difficult—not to make a predictable show about famous skateboarders or famous artists associated with skateboarding,” Andersson tells Stir by phone. “A conscious decision was that I’ve done my best not to make any mention of skateboarding as a sport. I don’t think it’s a sport. It’s become a sport. We can’t argue that; it’s in the Olympics. But this exhibition is not looking at that.”
In exploring aesthetic, architectural, social, political, and environmental aspects of the activity, Out of Control sits at the intersection of skateboarding and contemporary art.
Andersson is Out of Control’s guest curator, in collaboration with Kiriko Watanabe, the Audain Art Museum’s Gail & Stephen A. Jarislowsky Curator. The exhibition is the Whistler museum’s most ambitious to date, and, perhaps surprisingly, is fitting for the venue: just a stone’s throw away is Canada’s second-largest skate park. Covering two floors, the show features works ranging from watercolour to film to marble sculpture by a total of 19 local, national, and international artists.
Andersson, an independent curator and critic of historical and contemporary art who teaches at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, moved from Sweden to North Vancouver 1978. Every day after school, he would go to Inglewood “Mill” Skatepark in West Vancouver—the country’s very first skatepark. (Built in 1977, it was buried in 1984.) Andersson immersed himself in the world of skateboarding and continued riding until around the time he started teaching in 1999. He recalls how so many of his pupils at the time were also skateboarding enthusiasts.
“I had a lot of students in the late-’90s and early 2000s who were doing really interesting work in the studio but who also had this other life in the world of skateboarding,” Andersson says. “I’ve always seen this kind of parallel between skateboarders and contemporary artists. What they share is…this desire to question and challenge an environment. They observe their environment through different aesthetic means, but they both find ways, maybe poetic ways, to navigate structures designed to control them—it could be architecture or social convention.
“‘Out of Control’ suggests [the exhibition] is meant to explore these connections between contemporary art and skateboarding,” he adds. “Skateboarders are often accused of being out of control, whether it’s being in a public space or damaging public property, and simultaneously they’re always trying to be out of control, to not be controlled by that environment or be controlled by people. There are a lot of parallels with artists.”
Karin Bubaš, Blue Hair and Nose Manual (after Ellen O’Neal), 2021, archival pigment print with matte UV laminate, 40 x 110 inches. Courtesy of the artist, Monte Clark Gallery, Vancouver
Out of Control consists of several distinct rooms organized somewhat like a kind of obstacle course that encourages viewers to pause throughout. Each area features works grouped on a theme, with categories morphing in and out of each other, from rethinking barriers in the public sphere and navigating private spaces to the concept of community and the vitality of youth culture. It also explores certain skateboard histories, pointing in particular to those of female, non-binary, and BIPOC indviduals whose stories were long overlooked or outright dismissed.
A crucial element of Out of Control is work by Michelle Pezel, founder and operator of Vancouver’s Antisocial Skateboard Shop. It’s known not just as a retail outlet but a community hub that fuses street and skate culture with art, music, and social activism. At the back of the East Van store is a narrow hallway that acts as a gallery space. To reflect this, Out of Control has transformed a small closet hidden behind the museum’s largest exhibition area into Pezel’s site-specific installation, where she has essentially curated Antisocial’s 20-year history. “To me, she’s kind of legendary,” Andersson says of Pezel. “She has opened up skateboarding to a much broader demographic. Her store is like a community centre for people of different genders, sexuality, ages… In the past, when I grew up, skateboarding was a very male, macho thing. Her installation is really a backbone to the exhibition.”
Bracken Hanuse Corlett, The Drop (2022). Courtesy the artist
Another room focuses on language, poetry, and music and includes the late New York artist Dan Graham’s 1982 video-documentary, Rock My Religion, in which he connects alternative faiths and rock ’n’ roll. The film focuses on Patti Smith, “The High Priestess of Punk”’, who famously said rock is religion.
“This devotion to something has always struck me,” Andersson says. “Skateboarders are extremely devoted, as artists are, to something that is often misunderstood or seen as useless.”
French artist Raphaël Zarka, who has published three books on the history of skateboarding and who’s best known for his sculptures, drawings, paintings, and videos, created Paving Space—Regular Score, W9M1 (2022) for Out of Control. He constructed the nine-module sculptural group out of locally sourced Douglas fir with the help of Van Urban Timber. The latter is a Squamish-based sawmill and wood-products manufacturer founded and run by a group of friends who are all skateboarders. The finished, skateable sculptures have come to the exhibition after a public session where skateboarders were invited to literally leave their marks on the objects while they rested outside the Whistler Racket Club.
Cameron Kerr, who studied sculpture at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Carrara in Italy and graduated from Emily Carr University of Art + Design, brings Marble Barriers to Out of Control. The piece dates back to 2005, when he began re-creating concrete road barriers that he routinely drove by on his commute from Vancouver to Pemberton by carving them in marble and placing them inside galleries, on highways, and in the city. Here, the sculptures serve as dream objects for skaters to glide over rather than obstacles meant to direct traffic or stop movement.
Alex Morrison, Homewrecker, 2000, single-channel video loop, with sound, 1 min. 54 sec. Courtesy of the artist, Monte Clark Gallery, Vancouver
There’s Alex Morrison’s Housewrecker from 2002, a five-channel video installation made with a handheld camera. The footage captures a group of male skateboarders trashing a rental house scheduled for demolition. A follow-up to his 2000 Homewrecker, where Morrison recorded himself as he willfully damaged the apartment of a friend who had been given an eviction notice, it speaks loudly to gentrification.
Bracken Hanuse Corlett’s 2022 double-projection installation The Drop (2022) welcomes viewers to the exhibition, the animation featuring an Indigenous skateboarder moving through supernatural digital territories. The multidisciplinary artist, who hails from Wuikinuxv and Klahoose Nations, draws from a video game he is developing with the National Film Board of Canada. Hannah Dubois looks at racism, sexism, and colonialism in When We Bring Our Whole Selves (2022). The video documentary shares the stories of Taylor Koble, Rhyme Lahcene, and Kai Smith, BIPOC skaters who are working to make Vancouver’s skateboard community more inclusive.
Out of Control also features diverse works by Raymond Boisjoly, Karin Bubaš, Andrew Dadson, Noah Friebel, Tim Gardner, Christian Huizenga, Mikaela Kautzky, Andrew Kent, Samuel Roy-Bois, Ron Terada, Ian Wallace, and Amir Zaki. An accompanying book, designed by Judith Steedman, features an essay by skater-librarian Natalie Porter (who runs the Womxn Skateboard History website) on the diversification of skateboarding.
“What skateboarders and artists have in common is that they embrace failure,” Andersson says. “When you’re skateboarding, all you do all day is fail. As artists, that’s what you do, too. You try and you try again. There’s something symbiotic about these two worlds.”
Gail Johnson is a Vancouver-based journalist who has earned local and national nominations and awards for her work. She is a certified Gladue Report writer via Indigenous Perspectives Society in partnership with Royal Roads University and is a member of the Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards judging panel.
The ambitious new exhibition at Whistler’s Audain Art Museum draws parallels between the two worlds
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