Last week, activists flicked the red light back on as the Undercroft was fenced off for “construction work”. The move was interpreted by many as a harbinger of the next – if not last – round in the skaters vs. Starbucks battle that broke out when the Southbank Centre in March announced its plans to free up retail space by relocating the iconic skate spot.
Home to generations of skaters since the 1970s, the Undercroft holds a unique slice of the city’s sub-cultural history, and skaters, artists and filmmakers have so far not come up short in voicing their disapproval. But it’s the wave of public support garnered by Save the Southbank and similar campaigns that really prove how skateboarding - far from existing on the fringes of our cultural consciousness - today occupies a central place in pop culture, and no medium exemplifies that better than film.
Ever since Powell-Peralta’s Bones Brigade Video Show first immortalized video parts by the likes of Lance Mountain, Steve Caballero and Tony Hawk back in 1984, the DIY skate film has been an inextricable component of the lifestyle, playing a crucial role in securing otherwise unknown talent both merited recognition and lucrative sponsorships. Moreover, it has documented skating's radical renegotiation of the tacit terms of public space ownership, through its unique interaction with architecture and urban landscapes.
If Southbank really were serious about the arts, they’d be wise to offer skate parks more credit for functioning as breeding grounds for whole generations of artists and filmmakers in the '80s, '90s and '00s. Like Aaron Rose’s Beautiful Losers: Mark Gonzales, Raymond Pettibon, ESPO, Ryan McGinley, Shepard Fairy, Cheryl Dunn and Ed Templeton are just a handful of artists with their roots firmly embedded in street culture. Not to mention moving image; long before directing iconic music videos and Oscar-nominated features, Spike Jonze (who still owns skate company Girls) dodged security guards to shoot skate flicks like Blind’s seminal Video Days, while cult classics like Larry Clark and Harmony Korine’s Kids or Wassup Rockers, are so fundamentally built around the culture that it’s hard to see where the skate film ends and the motion pictures begin. To put it simply: Whether or not the Southbank Centre approves, skating has far since left grind marks all over the film canon.
The Dazed takeover of Samsung Galaxy Shoreditch Studio in Boxpark continues this week with a whole new generation of skate film, featuring Domas, Long Live South Bank, and an eclectic mix of shorts including a new video from London-based collective Isle Skateboards. Running from Monday 16th until Sunday 22nd December; opening hours are 11 am-7 pm on Monday to Saturday, 12 pm-6 pm on Sunday at Unit 4&5, Boxpark.