Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Angels Dancing on Concrete Waves

Watching Max Esposito's beautiful short film of longboarder Amanda Powell I couldn't help recalling feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray's passage on angels in her book An Ethics of Sexual Difference:
These swift angelic messengers, who transgress all enclosures in their speed, tell of the passage between the envelope of God and that of the world as micro- or macrocosm. They proclaim that such a journey can be made by the body of a man, and above all the body of a woman.
The stakes of Irigaray's angelology are the unexplored possibilities of relations between men and women, but also between women, each other and themselves. For Irigaray the figure of the angel stands as a mediator that speaks on behalf of desire, and particularly on behalf of a specifically feminine desire that has learned to speak on its own account without reliance on masculine categories. But where is the link between language, desire and skating?

Back in 2001 the popular image of skateboarding had become inextricably linked with the prankish machismo of Jackass and their copycats. In the same year architectural historian Ian Borden released his book Skateboarding, Space and the City: Architecture and the Body which celebrated the potential of street skating as a 'performative critique' of the city. In sympathy with the analysis of everyday life offered by Michel de Certeau, Borden was inclined to view the performance of the skateboarder as a series of enunciative acts. Like someone using and recombining the elements of their language different meanings, the skater chooses between different locations and architectural elements to include in their 'run'. Through this spatio-temporal editing the skater 'tactically' articulates a desire their own desire, while simultaneously usurping the spaces and times of the city maintained for other purposes. So what is that desire?

Both Irigaray and Certeau were psychoanalytically trained against the French Lacanian background in which the maxim is held that 'desire is the desire of the Other'. As the 'Other' is equated here with the impersonal law or culture of the male patriarchal order this would imply, for Irigaray in particular, that feminine desire will inevitably be alienated within or co-opted by a social order structured around masculine desire. While it is true that this structure is also replicated within skate culture itself, what struck me about Espisito's film was the way it depicted how much more skate has to offer both women and men.

Shortly after finding Espisito's film I came across another wonderful longboard video, featuring the Longboard Girls Crew of Madrid, and shot by Spanish photographer Juan Rayos:

With hands reaching out to each other, and dipping to the asphalt...
They speak like messengers, but gesture seems to be their "nature." Movement, posture, the coming-and-going between the two. They move-or stir up?-the paralysis or apatheia of the body, or the soul, or the world. They set trances or convulsions to music, or give them harmony.
Sometimes I imagine a sorority of angels, riding concrete waves, and dancing as they go.

No comments:

Post a Comment