photo manipulation by nacrowe
pro skateboarding legend RODNEY MULLEN is a magician without peer. widely regarded as one of the most inventive riders to have ever taken up the sport, he is credited with combining street and freestyle skating into a hybrid arsenal of tricks, all of which are the language of the sport today. its true that other skaters have acquired bigger fanbases, but basically everyone is speaking in the lexicon he invented.
but that is not what makes MULLEN interesting to me. if you know his background than you are aware that he was isolated growing up in a strict household and his board was his singular focus in life. in fact, his disciplinarian father let him pursue it only to demand that he hang up his passion if he couldn't make a living from it. after winning contest after contest his father took such as further proof that such were not meaningful. it is truly remarkable how such a transcendent generational talent endured despite having little to no support from those he cared most about, given his isolated upbringing. in comparison TONY HAWK grew up in a household where skateboarding was their family business, his father being the head of competitions funny enough. MULLEN sadly was in a family where skateboarding wasn't encouraged but outright dismissed.
when i think of MULLEN, i think of passion and innovation. i think of survival. i think of someone that pursued their passion with a singular drive and saw opportunities for artistic expression where others saw a common toy. for me its that vision of his that separates him from the pack for me in the same way that a MAGIC JOHNSON no-look side pass bespeaks a mind that can look ahead at what will come to pass and execute such with conviction. most of all he is an artist whose dedication is rooted in a deep love for his craft, which is impossible not to respect.
when watching his tricks i get inspired to create. his abilities transcend sport, its more like ballet. its artistic expression in motion. MARTHA GRAHAM eat your heart out.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
early 20th century french conceptual artist MARCEL DUCHAMP once stated that america's greatest work of art was its plumbing. to him the object was redefined and elevated to that of art purely by the transformational gaze of the artist.
i couldn't help but think of that idea when recently watching a documentary on the legendary BONES BRIGADE 1980s skateboard team for epoch establishing skateboard company POWELL PERALTA, which notably included STEVE CABALLERO, TONY HAWK, LANCE MOUNTAIN, RODNEY MULLEN, TOMMY GUERRERO, and MIKE MCGILL and later BUCKY LASEK, MIKE VALLELY and DANNY WAY among others. BONES BRIGADE: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY (NONFICTION UNLIMITED 2012) was directed by STACY PERALTA of POWELL PERALTA and Z-BOYS fame.
for me what made this documentary interesting is that skateboarding for this generation provided a way of reinterpreting the landscape in just as radical a manner as the ROMANTICS or TRANSCENDENTALISTS of the past. oppressive suburban monotony and urban jungles were transformed into a never ending canvass upon which to explore. as much as these athletes provided a new touchstone that shifted culture in terms of sports, fashion, music and normative definitions of masculinity, it is this freedom that they exemplified that i still find the most compelling.
for me personally i only experienced that level of transformation with my surroundings when i got a honda click scooter in MYANMAR. man i loved that bike. life over there was pretty isolating and monotonous where essentially i lived on the same compound of the school, which felt like a prison. the military government felt rather oppressive and it was a situation where you felt like you were being constantly monitored. i only lasted a year at that school and was happy to leave. but having that bike made my year. it gave me the freedom to really explore the countryside and meet locals, talk with artists and monks from other towns and villages. even now i can still smell the air of the rice fields and see water buffalo lounging in the distance.
without that bike i literally would've been stuck in that compound with a bunch of complaining ex-patriots (mostly americans) whining about some inconsequential bullshit. instead i was out taking in the food, sights and culture of the northern region surrounding MANDALAY. there is something visceral about feeling the wind in your face and being physically traveling in space, not in a traveling air-conditioned room (a la cars, trucks, etc) that makes you really take in the surrounding landscape and notice how it shifts and alters over time. maybe this has little to do with skateboarding, but i really miss that feeling. know i understand the risk/reward of motorcycles.