Kane Nugent

Photographing Bangkok’s underground skate scene
By Zoe Springer | Art | 18 May 2017
Photography Kane Nugent

Having made the 6,000 mile move from Carmarthen, Wales to Thailand, via Vietnam, skater, artist and founder of GlueBag Skateboards, Kane Nugent’s work is putting the Bangkok skate scene on the map. Immersing himself in he city’s skate community, here Nugent talks us through his latest series documenting the faces at the heart of Bangkok’s underground youth culture.

Growing up in Stockport, Manchester, Kane bought his first skateboard at fourteen, and not too soon after that came his second craze; photographing the skate scene around him. Back then, no one had computers, and as he filmed his friends the footage was plugged directly into a VCR; creating a DIY aesthetic that has remained a continuous theme throughout his video work.

This sense of community extends to Nugent’s collective, Glue Bag Skateboards; the name a satirical nod to South East Asian teens on a budget who sniff glue to get high. Run by Nugent and his girlfriend – her background in art and fashion greatly influencing the ideologies behind the initiative – GlueBag is a community of artists and skaters with shared passions (namely “cheap beer, making shit art, and going skateboarding”) and a DIY ethos.


Zoe Springer: How did you first get into the skateboarding scene?
Kane Nugent: I was born in Stockport, Manchester but I grew up in Wales. I lived the majority of my life in Carmarthen; a small, outdated town in South Wales mostly populated by junior police officers and Adidas tracksuits. The town opened up a skate park when I was around fourteen and I used to be one of those annoying kids who rode a BMX around the park, then I eventually got a board and become slightly less annoying.

Zoe: What made you decide to begin documenting the skate scene?
Kane: I got a digital8 camera when I was around fifteen and started filming skating. It was good fun, no one had a computer back then so we used to just plug it into the VCR and capture everything we filmed that day on a VHS tape. I only had a few digital8 tapes so we had to record over and over the same tapes. There was no editing or anything so it had a very DIY feel to it, which I enjoyed. I’ve slowly become more obsessed in documenting the absurdity of skateboarding and I feel restless if I don’t have my camera with me. There’s always a nonsensical moment that’s needs to be captured.

“I’ve slowly become more obsessed in documenting the absurdity of skateboarding and I feel restless if I don’t have my camera with me. There’s always a nonsensical moment that’s needs to be captured.”

Zoe: How did you end up in Thailand?
Kane: We were initially living in Vietnam. I was finishing up filming a video there when we got the boot from our house. We spent a few weeks living in different hotels around Saigon before I did a ‘Martin Sheen’ and lost my mind. Vietnam will do that to you. I then applied for an art residency in Bangkok. We knew someone who lived in Pattaya – which is the haven for greasy old men in Thailand – and we stayed on a mattress there for a while before upgrading to a bed in Bangkok. Sadly, the art residency fell through, so we just worked on growing GlueBag and trying to better ourselves. It was a weird period at first as we were both sort of going through a reality check and dealing with a lot of issues. To be honest I didn’t know much about Thailand other than what I learnt from a skate trip I had been on the previous year. I’m happy things went a bit tits up in Vietnam; I find the Thai smile more seductive.

Zoe: What is the skate scene like there and how does it differ from other countries?
Kane: The skate scene here is tight. There are a lot of different crews and pockets of skaters and a good mix of different styles. I’ve found that Thai skaters are very welcoming and there’s less of an ego amongst the skaters than in a lot of other countries.

Zoe: What is youth culture like there as a whole?
Kane: It varies so much. You see a lot of teens completely lost on their phones, more so than anywhere else I’ve visited. There’s a big identity crisis with some of the youth who just seem to imitate whatever is popular at that moment. On the flip side, you get a lot of boys that get into racing customised motorbikes. It’s sort of like the boy-racer thing from the UK but the Thai style is no helmets, super skinny wheels and motorbikes that sound like hedge-trimmers on speed. Lean is quite big here. Pharmacies are really relaxed and the police can’t piss test you. I’d say the skateboarders here are pretty relaxed and do their own thing like in most countries. It’s a big country and I’m just going by what I see in the city so as far as youth culture as a whole, its pretty much like any other major city, ‘same same’, just a bit more chaotic.

Zoe: What is it that fascinates you about the people and personalities in the skating scene?
Kane: It’s a community for eccentric, characteristic outsiders. A lot of the time it feels like kids who want to belong to a community that isn’t as socially accepted as football or basketball. Skateboarding attracts the weirdest of people and Thailand is no different. Thai culture is all about keeping the harmony so it’s interesting to be around locals who question certain values and have personalities similar to friends who come from a completely different culture.

“It’s sort of like the boy-racer thing from the U.K but the Thai style is no helmets, super skinny wheels and motorbikes that sound like hedge-trimmers on speed.”

Zoe: You’ve mentioned that some of your photos could be considered quite taboo in Thailand, how would you say this has impacted your art?
Kane: I wouldn’t say its impacted my art or photography at all. Older Thai people can be quite conservative and social media is so huge here it has limited me to how much I can display online without the worry that someone’s great grandmother will see them bonging in an alleyway. My personal art addresses a lot of sexuality and anxiety subject matters, which differs a lot from Thai contemporary art, but the Thai skaters seem to find woodcuts of my naked ass amusing. However, I was once talked out of producing a run of decks because the graphic was too pornographic. I bought a bunch of old black and white nude photos from a guy at a market but Thai law forbids pornography so I had to adapt a different graphic.

Zoe: Can you tell us a little bit about Glue Bag Skateboards? How was the idea first conceived?
Kane: The name Glue Bag came about sometime when I was living in Cardiff, it was an outdated joke aimed at people who still huffed glue from plastic bags. The name has a bigger relevance in South East Asia as glue is still the drug of choice among people getting high on a budget. I’m hyped on how much it’s progressed. We started Glue Bag with no intention of having a set team or even sponsoring anyone, we wanted to keep it fun and creative. Its crazy to think prior to leaving the UK I was on the dole, eating ready meals, and making home-made screens from discarded frames.

Zoe: Who is part of the collective? How do you guys collaborate to create the art and products that we see on your site?
Kane: Everyone who has filmed tricks in any of the videos has collaborated with us and is part of the Glue Bag family. We never wanted to just sponsor skaters and have a strict team, we wanted to put more of an emphasis on the creative aspect of skating. Right now it’s my girlfriend and me running the whole show. It’s really important to have someone to work with and my girlfriend is the main reason we are still going, she really doesn’t get the recognition she deserves. Every decision is made mutually and her history in fashion and art has really influenced and evolved the brand into something more than just another skateboard company. We’re working on representing more like-minded people to work alongside us, but as of right now it’s just the two of us.

Zoe: What plans do you have for Glue Bag Skateboards in the future?
Kane: We’re currently racking up clips for a Thai street video that’s been a year in the making. We’re also looking into venturing out into Tokyo and eventually New York. We want to collaborate with more artists and focus more on exhibiting my art.

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