Ian Borden, UK theorist, architectural historian and skateboarder, visited The Hague on the 9th of June to lecture about skateboarding as an urban space production system. My review for Archined in Dutch is here. In my teens I used to skate a lot and the central idea of his work has always seemed completely reasonable to me: the idea that skateboarders through their special needs find novel ways to use and interpret the city. Using previews on Google Books I read some bits and pieces of Borden's writing and I didn't like what I read.
"....the "ollie", the impact-adhesion-ascension procedure by which the skater unweights the front of the skateboard to make it pop-up seemingly unaided in the air."
talking of the skateboarder's senses "they are a sensory and spatialized version of the Althusserian concept of ideology as the imaginary representation of the subject's relationship to his or her real conditions of existence"
"...from the early 1980's, the focus of skateboarding has shifted, becoming more urban in character, directly confronting not only architecture but also the economic logic of capitalist abstract space."
"Skateboarders target the targets and times of the urban degree zero, reinscribing themselves onto everyday functional spaces and objects."
An 'imaginary representation' is that the same as an imaginary imagination? I also have my doubts about skateboarding as confrontational to any capitalist economic logic. When we met new skaters the first conversation was always about decks and wheels, mine always substandard from a lack of money. How I wished to have rich parents.
I did enjoy the lecture however: skating is a fun subject and Borden spoke like a human rather than some neo-Marxist oracle in overdrive. Iain Sinclair spoke earlier in the same lecture series and together they constituted a perfect pair of representatives for 21th century urban activism. An activism that acts through non-committal and silence. Borden spoke of the skateboarder's resistance to the city as one of 'wilful ignorance'. As cities are being developed by shady coalitions of corrupt building firms and money merchants, unchallenged by the public and out of bounds of political control, international monetary gangs are creating their urban skyscraping legacies. The skateboarder and the drifter challenge their hegemony by ignoring them, by refusing to acknowledge the star-architect and his backers. The city is not made by city planners but by people and the free interaction between people. I see the point but I wonder if something with more confrontational substance and visibility is needed. If only the Iains would make the frontpage of the Guardian: eminent writers attempted a citizens arrest of Rem Koolhaas.