Time and space
We often look at skateboarding’s influence on cultural facets like fashion and music, but a new exhibition is spotlighting skate’s impact on headspace and urban awareness. Museum of Skateboarding, showing now at Calvert 22, is an exploration of “skateboarding not as a subculture but through its impact on consciousness and body, and the particular point of view on the city”.
The installation has been realised by Kirill Savchenkov, a Russian born artist who was born in the late 80s and grew up skateboarding. His youth was spent during the country’s strange transformational period following the fall of the Soviet Union, the country facing extreme poverty, followed by the rule of Putin. At the time Russia was having an overhaul of beliefs, as communist ideologies from the older generation no longer held interest or appeal to the younger generations, and things like skateboarding, MTV, and other western influences began making their way to Russian youth.
Following his time as a skateboarder Kirill, who was a young artist at the time, began to look upon skateboarding as more than a subculture consisting of a specific language of tricks, clothing and professionals. Here he tells us why – more than any other subculture – skateboarding teaches various skills such as overcoming pain, coordination, and the ability to focus during moments of fear. The ultimate meditative state, throwing skateboarders’ perspectives of their spatial surroundings into sharp relief.
Evan Goodfellow: Congratulations on the opening. I’m curious when you started skateboarding?
Kirill Savchenkov: Thank you! I started in 2002. I skated right up until I injured my leg.
EG: I think a lot of times skateboarders look at cities in a similar way and often take for granted that they are continually assessing what could be done on a certain ledge, bank, or set of stairs. Can you tell me about your interaction with architecture through skateboarding?
KS: Even after I stopped skating a lot, I still had this specific view of the city, its shapes and surfaces became a habit. This feature of skateboarding produces a unique relation with objects and constructs a meta-geography map of the space. And I think skateboarding works with a combination of the body, architecture, a tool (skateboard), temporality and space that’s why this practice produces a different attitude to time-space relations.
EG: Was there someone who helped you realise skateboarding and its interaction from an outsider’s perspective?
KS: In the installation there is a practice manual – a study book with physical exercises that I developed together with Ashot Shaboyan. He was a professional skateboarder in the late 90s, and today he works as a fitness coach, now developing an authentic fitness and bodybuilding system.
EG: I wonder if in the future there will be skateboard coaches – especially with skateboarding being in the Olympics in 2016. I am curious, do the police in Russia kick out skateboarders and harass them?
KS: In general, problems with police, security, private property and power is a common issue for skateboarders. One could interpret skateboarding as an act of vandalism, believing that there is an illegal nature to skateboarding. In Russia, this issue stays more or less the same.
EG: How do you feel skateboarding is different or unique in Russia?
KS: I don’t think there is a fundamental difference between skate in the East and West. Skateboard culture and industry is an international and globalised practice and sometimes skaters can look similar. And a lot of cities have similar parts, shapes and logic. The Modernistic architecture movement influenced a lot of cities around the world, however social spaces, order of power, historical memory and culture can be different.
EG: What is the perfect skate spot that you replicated and what makes it perfect for you?
KS: One of the sculptures in Museum of Skateboarding appeals to the shape of an unbelievable spot. I made this using shapes of skatestoppers, wax and concrete. If we change the scale of a skatestopper we get an opposite thing – a nice shape that could be used for tricks. The obstacles becomes resources for new movements – and I think this is an essential point for skateboarding. If I’m working on the design of the perfect spot, I base it on the obstacles.
EG: Are there any skate spots in London that you particularly appreciate?
KS: I like the cityscape of London – when different layers of time overlap with one another, it creates a unique experience for movement in the city. At the same time there are a lot of functionalistic buildings and shapes in London and this creates a few unique spots like the Southbank Centre or the London Bridge 10 set.
Kirill Savchankov, Museum of Skateboarding at Calvert 22
The exhibition Museum of Skateboarding will be open until 11 September 2016 at Calvert 22 in London.
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