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mike o'meally and max creasy
A young man is airborne on skateboard above the cement curl of a graffiti covered rink in Brooklyn, New York City. The man is Bobby Puleo (2001). The twin towers of The World Trade Centre form a backdrop to this scene. The evening sky and smog is fading over the city. There is a disturbing subtext to this image by Mike O'Meally lkarus who, in making wings for himself, flies too close to the sun, damaging his wings and falling to his death. The lurid sky and backdrop is de-realised like Richard Prince's sunset images, selected and re-photographed from magazines and advertisements. This photograph is characteristic of many of the images in Concrete Content. As subjects of photography, professional and amateur skateboarders express the possibilities of the picturesque. The lateral extensions of skateboarders on concrete and plywood ramps reveal the capacities of sites and bodies in a kind of parallax which magnifies their variety and singularity. The photographic images by Mike O'Meally and Max Creasy present skateboarding as a global cultural phenomenon of hegemony and difference with images from the United States of America, Sweden, Australia and Brazil. The photographers utilise conventions of fashion photography and documentary photography. The culture of skateboarding has utilised photography, video and digital technologies (commercial and 'do-it yourself practices) to transform a marginal subcultural space into a mass market with special interest magazines, clothing, sneakers, boards and major events. Skateboarding has its own photographic conventions based upon fragmentation, repetition, action and performance. In the culture of skateboarding photographic practices become predatory in that they plunder cultures and spaces for the mass market in a way related to tourism's quest for the natural and authentic. O'Meally is associate editor of Skateboarder magazine and Creasy is a visual artist practising in Melbourne. Their photographic images appear in the billboard style light-boxes of City Lights, a public art space which engages with advertising and fashion at two separate locations in Melbourne's Flinders Lane Precinct. O'Meally and Creasy document a masculine masquerade in which the skateboard becomes a fetishistic signifier of the metaphysics of youth. Creasy's image of Dion Kovac's bedroom (Sydney, 2002) contains the anti-heroic privacy of suburban banality achieved through photographing second-degree, image-fragments fixed to a domestic wall. The rituals of youth demand a kind of outsiderness and lawlessness of performing toughness affected by the boundaries of gender, race and class. This is apparent in O'Meally's black and white image of Keith Hufnagel negotiating the streets of New York with the aid of a car. O'Meally's photograph of Jason Dill (New York, 2000) in a sleeveless camouflage Tshirt (by Japanese clothing label Bathing Ape) may be compared to Steven Klein 's images of masculinity in fashion magazines, Dutch and Arena.1 The close physicality and combative representation of masculinity is compromised by the anxiety of desubjectification. Dill's T -shirt suggests the camouflage pattern has more of an affinity with concrete structures than with foliage. The adoption of utility clothing creates a language of singularity from uniform, mass effects. The skateboard has a particular relationship to the production of space.2 The culture is perceived to challenge authorized public space by altering it into a semi-private and clandestine state. The images of O'Meally and Creasy articulate the sculptural and architectural capacities of skateboarding in a travesty of minimalist aesthetics. This is apparent in Creasy's site-specific photograph of a group of dismantled, plywood ramps in a pine forest (Mammoth, California, 1999). These objects retain a reserve of aesthetic and utilitarian potential. O'Meally's image of Reese Forbes on a ten metre high concrete public sculpture (Sao Paulo, Brazil, 2001) articulates the subversive production of meaning, desire and use in everyday tactics. O'Meally uses lighting to photograph Hufnagel in a public car park (Los Angeles, 2001 ). The immaterial effect of lighting on the industrial interior resembles a white walled gallery space in a kind of re-image of architectural space. O'Meally and Creasy use second-degree re-imaging to indicate that the skateboard is both a tool and toy of everyday practice and experience. The photographic image produces space and spectacle. The artists utilise the conventions of fashion and documentary photography to produce images which appear natural, authentic and even beautiful. In using these conventions, they risk repeating a spectacle of heroic and romantic masculine my1hologies to enable the mass appeal of uniform products. The production of space in skateboarding is acutely affected by masculine self-presence and the commodity drive to indistinction.
Max Creasy, Untitled (Dismantled Ramps), 1999. photograph. Courtesy the artist.
1. Klein, Steven, 'Hardcore', Arena, Spring/Summer. 200 I, No. 15, pp.l88-207; Klein, Steven, 'The Hunt', Dutch, No. 26, 2000, pp.l36-159.
2. See Borden, lain, Skateboarding, Space and the City: Architecture and the body, Berg, London & New York, 200 I, p.l.
City Lights, Centre Place-Hosier Lane, Melbourne, 12 Febnuary – 4 April 2002.