The Stoke: Skateboarding in Brisbane
The Museum of Brisbane’s latest exhibition ‘The Stoke’ traces the history of skateboarding in the city. It’s a brilliantly conceived and executed show, which includes a purpose-built skate bowl in central gallery space. At weekends the gallery resounds with wheel-on-wood as skaters demonstrate their skills to fascinated onlookers.
The exhibition includes some superb photos. Many have a wonderfully evocative feel – a favourite of mine was a shot of three teenage girls tentatively balancing on very early skateboards, as they wheel through a 1970’s car park. These historical photos are accompanied by a contemporary collection of images taken by documentary photographer Isaac Brown, which showcase favourite skating locations in Brisbane.
The exhibition also incorporates a collection of skateboards, tracing their evolution. Beginning in the 1960’s with home-made examples cobbled together out of old roller-skates and pieces of rough-and-ready wood. These rudimentary boards become ever more sophisticated, concluding with today’s crafted, colourful and much larger designs.
One board was very similar to the one I used circa 1986-89. It recently saw active service in 2006 when one of my best friends decided to renew his skateboarding career. For a brief few days he impressed at the local skate park where he showcased his long-forgotten skills. Unfortunately his knee gave way and he finally had to admit his skating days were over. But as they say skateboarders never die – they just suffer ligament damage.
The Stoke did a fantastic job of communicating what skateboarding feels like and the sense of freedom it gives. It brought back memories of carefree summer days, carving along London’s streets, making friends and watching people describe the scale of their wipe-out before proudly showing the six inch scar along their arm, or leg, or back, or head…
Accompanying the exhibition are a variety of activities including a ‘zine workshop to help skaters create their own magazines and tell their own stories. I know how much satisfaction my friends Andy and Jem got from producing their own skater ‘zine back in the day (called ‘The Street Plant Liberation Army.’)
As well as the ‘zine workshop there are film viewings, talks and design workshops. The exhibition truly is an all-access show and in my opinion the result of a moment of curatorial inspiration. It brings an unlikely subject into a gallery space, making the museum relevant to a community that might never normally visit. The show also acknowledges the cultural impact that skateboarding has had on the city though its design, creativity and enthusiasm.
For more information on the show, including some short videos click here