To arrive at the Centre International d'Art et du Paysage (CIAP), you first have to elude the train delays, then accept your car will stop at any museum along the way (including one little room full of stones and hammers at the local Geology Museum, which attracted Evariste Richer's curiosity in preparation of his forthcoming show), to finally reach an island in the middle of the Vassivière Lake. The most important thing was to reach our destination. And to discover Otro, a sculpture by Koo Jeong-A.
As I arrived, the artwork, placed in the middle of the grassy fields, was already surrounded by skaters of all ages commenting each other's tricks in an attempt to tame the curves of the new skate park. An artist intervention made to interact with the landscape. A sculpture designed for city freestylers. An urban agora in the countryside.
As the sunny afternoon ended, a rainstorm swept the crowd away. Followed by hail. As the heavy showers created rivers of mud in the glowing structure, local authorities — and EDF, the electricity company responsible for the lake — were shooting fireworks. The night shots wouldn't reveal the dreamy phosphorescence of the curved shapes, evoking instead a sight of beautiful ski slopes on late spring (the missing link in between skate board and snow board?). The next morning looked like the epilogue of Lost In La Mancha. Only a few extras were left on the set.
Koo Jeong-A imagined an art piece integrated in the landscape, which would interfere with the changing light. Her collaboration with l'Escaut architecture studio and some experienced skateboarders gave birth to a beautiful sculpture, a strong intervention in the territory, and a very tricky park to ride — or as its creators put it, an invitation to "skate the landscape".
You're Only Young Once, the quote on this old school rider's board, was a premonition on this day of contrasts. The conjugation of the skaters and the weather created a performance no one would have expected where external elements (human and natural) would reshape an artwork. Every creation has a life to live. Otro had a quick one, and will soon know its first resurrection, as it shall be restored for the official opening after the summer. On the days following the event, I exchanged a few emails with Claude Queyrel, one member of the FOOSJ (French Old School Skate Jam) that inaugurated Otro.
gbasdevant - Jul 9, 2012, at 09:59:20 AM GMT+02:00
The elements were against us… from the train delay to this Grand final.
I had never seen such a great atmosphere around a skate park. It's a pity that we didn't find more time to talk in the middle of this video and photo shooting, skate jam and thunders.
Have you seen the movie Lost In La Mancha? We got close to it.
foosj - Jul 9, 2012, at 11:08:13 AM GMT+02:00
Bien vu, Lost In La Mancha! What saved us from wrecking is that we don't have producers swallowing the entire budget. And that, in fact, the precise idea of disaster and chaos tickles us, excites us [skaters]...
To tell you the truth, since the first edition [of FOSSJ] we've only been trying to put up together the right elements for something to happen. We have the global movement, we know what we want, but the ways to get there are always unpredictable.
gbasdevant - July 9, 2012 2:32:28 PM GMT+02:00
I actually liked the apocalyptic side of it. The architects were rather down. I almost managed to cover the entire story of the (short) life of an art piece.
foosj - July 9, 2012 10:24:24 PM GMT+02:00
The skate park has been conceived as a sculpture. Its shapes don't respond exclusively to a sport practice. The aesthetic object has been optimized to respond to the skaters' needs, but this usage value came second, engrafted on another purpose. We are on the field of a double attraction: aesthetics overlapping practice. We can also consider to be going back to the origins. These shapes create an attraction power that makes you want to taste them. Emotions are providing the impulse to the movement.
We're finding the roots of curve skateboarding that revolutionized the practice in the 70's, when the empty Californian pools irresistibly attracted the skaters to them. These shapes weren't designed to welcomes skaters, but the skaters projected their desires on them…. And we are still living off this, 30 years later. What an impact!
gbasdevant - July 9, 2012 23:41:15 AM GMT+02:00
It's interesting to think that the aesthetic innovative approach could be such a reference, a tribute to the first experimentations. And it's even more surprising to think that all this is coming from an artist who is — I presume — pretty foreign to skate culture. Her creative process comes from the discovery she made of this island, its wilderness in the middle of the winter season. She wanted to propose a game, an interaction with the landscape, and to apprehend this wild environment through an urban practice. She's using the skaters' practice as a medium to communicate her own sensations of this space, the forest, the fields...
In this precise moment, we saw the work of art emerge right on the crossover between sensations and a practice that are very different among them.
The use of the skate park (and technical problems associated) were so strong that we reached a certain point of annihilation of the initial aesthetics. What incredible state we left the park in, last Sunday!
foosj - July 10, 2012 8:51:45 AM GMT+02:00
The confrontation, the superimposition, the crossover — call it what you want — of these two approaches definitively produced something unique. We saw a double production of the space. First, of the space of the artistic piece itself, of course. Also, the appropriation of the skaters (invented by the skaters) was almost a form of comment in their own act.
Indeed, despite some technical problems, the form and its potential of desire weren't affected at all, but even enhanced if we can now ad many traces — the real traces, but also the photographed, shot or spoken ones, etc.
What we did had "increased" this desire. I can easily use this metaphor of desire as I'm thinking of this sculpture and precisely about the fact that we were invited to penetrate or come out of a hole! I have done it myself and I can tell you that such experience isn't trivial at all.
Ultimately, to understate the aggressions undergone by the sculpture, we should put these back in perspective: think of the deteriorations of a public bench or a marble wall under the numerous assaults of the skaters. At the end of the day, nothing more normal than this!
foosj - July 10, 2012 9:10:52 AM GMT+02:00
The length of such process (the deterioration) has been very short. We lived it in an extreme way, literally with all our body and soul. This happened in front of everyone, as an intense collective experience. As we're talking, I'm telling myself that we should talk more about that and document this process. This is a real case study.
foosj - July 10, 2012 9:17:37 AM GMT+02:00
All this brings us back to your starting point: Lost In La Mancha, when the making-of becomes the real film.
Otro has provided an original setting for a spontaneous performance. It will survive as a sculpture and will definitively become a unique spot in the skateboarders' community. The input of the artist and the architects helped by skaters (who have an unique DIY knowledge on designing and constructing skate parks, including the craft of concrete curves) paired with the means of an arts centre are such unique circumstances that there's very little chance to see such project appear in any urban public space. It is to be found in the middle of the Vassivière Lake, where you can only respect the elements. Grégoire Basdevant