While Glencoe was skating this rock, I was approached by a man who was noticeably irritated by skateboarders around the temporary art piece. He began with the classic, “Don’t you have any respect?” line, aggressively adding that “The school paid an artist to paint that rock, and you’re wrecking it.” His interrogation aligned perfectly with one of the attempts, and, once I became more occupied by the trick than his berating, the man marched over to Glencoe to repeat himself before walking towards the campus’ security office. Shortly after the man’s outburst, we were approached by two security guards who politely asked us to stop skating. When asked if their request had anything to do with the man who had confronted us, they laughed, confirming that he had overreacted to our presence. His complaint stuck with me, and in light of the recently erected “no skateboarding” signs in the area (a result of collisions between skaters and pedestrians, according to the campus newspaper), I can’t help but feel a bit irritated.
It was the man’s first question that really resonated: “Don’t you have any respect?” Getting older, I understand where people are coming from when they are upset about damage to their world resulting from skating. If I owned a home, business, or property, I would be pretty bummed if my window smashed or my pristine stone ledges became rough and chunky as a casualty of some aspiring skater’s repeated attempts at getting a trick. It is impossible to deny that there is a destructive element to skateboarding, and I feel more and more as though I am coming to terms with that every time I try and go out filming or shooting photos. I often find myself thinking, Is this really worth it? If the session catches onlookers’ attention.
On the contrary, I doubt that half of the people who give us shit would ever question their self-righteousness when they approach a fellow human being to callously bark criticism, orders, or insults their way. Why should they have the moral high ground when we are both just trying to exercise some form of autonomy in a public space? A healthy urban centre should value the coexistence of people with diverse values and goals, yet skaters are constantly barred from accessing public spaces. A site-specific installation should consider its environment, and if anyone planning the artwork had taken a second to observe the area that skateboarders have called home for nearly two decades, they would have seen skaters using the rock, the children of passing families climbing them, and maybe even the occasional fashion photoshoot on top of them. If any of these elements had been taken into account, the artwork could have been placed in a less vulnerable area. Alternatively, they could have followed the artist who painted Toronto’s Kennedy bank, who noticed skaters using it and added a protective coating to allow the coexistence of the mural and the space’s occupants. Instead, after a season’s worth of scuffs resulted in some minor damage, only skaters are to blame in the public’s eyes.
TL;DR, I think I’ve thought about this a bit too much. Here’s the photo of Glencoe’s Nose Manual. I hope you enjoy the colourful background.
Words and photo by James Morley