Programme Exhibitions Past Exhibitions Phatfuctinsanepervert, Concrete Skates, Glasgow Private View: Friday 13 December 1996, 5:00PM - 7:00PM Exhibition Run: 12 September 1996 - Saturday 5 October 1996 Artist: Martin Boyce, Jeremy Deller, Jim Lambie, Martin Macdonald, Jonathan Monk, Victoria Morton, Toby Patterson, David Shrigley, Toby Webster, Cathy Wilkes, Richard Wright Curated by Toby Webster There are plenty of obvious similarities between skate culture and contemporary art, not least that both are somewhere out on the margins of society as a whole. If you were in the business of making comparisons you could maybe add obscure, complex, ironic, tribal, male- dominated, acutely aware of their own short histories and tending to alienate the uninitiated. Everybody knows that street culture is post- modernism live and uncut, appropriating, recycling, spontaneously generating new forms from the debris of the old. It’s the glamorous differences though, not the similarities that have meant that street art in its many forms has been eagerly assimilated by the gallery world, and its iconography and language have influenced a generation of artists for whom the street is, more often than not, just something you walk down on the way to a private view. Skatewear is currently the look of choice for the switched-on boys of Glasgow and the art scene is no exception – Stüssy gear, Pervert T-shirts and beaten-up Vans abound on the dance floor at Glasgow School of Art. It’s also primarily American and Glasgow as a city often looks across the Atlantic for inspiration, an activity made more attractive to many Scots as it involves turning one’s back on London. The point is that ISPFP is, surprisingly, a temporary reversal of the usual cultural flow – an island in the stream, an island on the street. There’s a low-key feeling to the whole event and the twelve artists involved (only one of whom skateboards, you guess which) don’t seem to be making a collective bid for street-credibility. It’s taking place in Concrete Skates, a smart skateboard shop which also sells clothing, shoes, shades and so on and there are plenty of decks on display, casually arranged on racks and shelves so that the underside is visible- the side that shows in all those photos of skaters in mid-air, pulling off their best tricks, and where just about every board in the world is painted, or screen-printed, or somehow customised. A dozen of those here have been customised by the artists and they have a much stronger kinship with their makers’ previous work than with the commercial skate designs around them, designs which have mostly been handed down to the market from the boards of real, live pro skaters. These have a constantly developing language of their own, and an important part of skate culture is the idea of authenticity , living the life. Although skate art and fashion is notoriously eclectic and punk rock, hip-hop, heavy metal, op-art, nineties corporate logos and seventies cop movies have all gone into the mix at some point, there’s a vibe going down, particular allegiances being expressed. In contrast , the custom boards produced by the artists ignore the conventions, which means both that they’re more inventive, more varied than the others and that as outsiders their skate-world status remains in doubt. This doesn’t mean they all look out of place: Toby Webster’s Scotchlite rendering of an iconic modern hi-fi, Jim Lambie’s chrome veneered deck, Richard Wright’s repeated skull motif and even Martin Boyce’s screen-printed text contrasting shootings in two different cities could all be taken for neat, desirable examples of the genre they’re usurping, at least if the artists’ boards weren’t distinguished by their lack of price tags. Martin McDonald’s goth-punk inscription ‘mutiny’ is at the DIY end of the same territory. The underlying difference in attitude is more obvious from the other contributions. Jeremy Deller’s, for example, is a home-made explosive device (manufactured by US artist Gregory Green) attached to the underside of a board , making skating impossible and alluding both to terrorist car bombs and to the ultimate trick move, vertical take-off; Jonnie Wilkes has employed a sign-writer to letter ’54 glorious nudes’ in yellow on black enamel, a tactic which time-warps the finished article straight back to the fifties, the genesis of skateboarding and pop art; David Shrigley’s paranoiac hand-written text lets you know that ‘even though you are an immeasurably tiny speck of shit, your every movement is still being monitored (and found repulsive by those employed to do so)’ ; Jonathan Monk can’t resist a good one-liner and applies abrasive grip-tape on the wrong side- lighting a cigarette and stubbing it out there for good measure- while Cathy Wilkes, Toby Patterson and Victoria Morton have all treated the board simply as a flat space on which to continue working out their own ongoing aesthetic concerns. The desire to get out of the gallery, escape the codes and get plugged in to the life of society is a recurrent theme in contemporary art and it usually ends in tears. ISPFP works because it never tries to get its knee-pads on and jump breeze-blocks in the underpass, it doesn’t make an issue of the situation, just uses it to let the artists involved explore new possibilities in their own work. This is a low-risk strategy and so the returns are not spectacular, but it’s still more adventurous in its laid-back way than many more formulaic projects which have attempted similar things. Once this is over, the artists’ skateboards will travel south to occupy a white gallery space somewhere in London, and things might be different there.