What are you skating for?
SKAAAATIIIINNNG!!!! On stage. No contest with participants, but a performance for an audience occupying a limited number of seats. Jackets are handed in at the cloakroom, hearing protection dealed out. Sold-out Hall G. A skatepark planned specially for the performance. This evening, the people on the stage share their passion, their individual expression, their need for movement, their energy, their creativity, their voices, their bodies, their “slams” (uncontrolled falls). Not in order to win, but in an artistic setting atypical for skating.
We see different situations, moments, scenes. Skating on the skateboard and on rollerskates, solo, trio, ten people. Skaters – school kids and young adults, supported by others who add actrobatics and parkour elements. We see a person play electric guitar, another knocking the beat, someone sings into a microphone. An alternating “line” (series of tricks), where two skaters repeatedly complete variations of a “boardslide” – sliding with the skateboard deck along a long metal rail at calf height. Rhythmically, measured, one after the other, in the flow. In between a person runs after the skaters, playing tag. An “ollie” (jump with the skateboard) over a person in a car tyre rolling on the floor. A basketball is flying through the park. In the midst of it all someone slides on their belly through the action. We hear techno, some skaters circle around relaxed, squatting, surfing, with each other, next to each other. The others follow, the techno beat speeds up, everyone is speeding up. Someone runs after them, singing loudly into the microphone: “We’re rolling, we’re rolling! Keep rolling!” Speed. The scene becomes less populated, quieter. Three skaters are gliding through the park, on rollerskates and skateboard, repeating the song “Hush, I said there’s more to life than rush”. Skaters sitting at the sides join in the chorus, accompanied by guitar and stomping: “Not gonna leave this place with us, hush.” Laughing faces, basketball, drinks break, acrobatics. A handstand, probably lasting one minute, by a rollerskater on the “quarter” (a quarter circle ramp). spontaneous applause. There is filming on the stage as well as in the audience. Skateboards are turned into an improvised obstacle, stuck together and stacked up. We see successful and attempted tricks, all real. Mutual cheering on. Two people on rollerskates sing loudly along to electropunk on the large quarter, making the obstacle a stage on the stage. On the “flat” (level ground) the skaters form a “moshpit” (a dance form where people intentionally jostle each other). The “kicker” (little ramp) is carried into the centre. All are skating over it, getting their “airtime” before landing perfectly or falling hard. Ollie, 180, early grab. The skateboard decks are stomped heavily against the floor, that’s how skaters applaud each other. The music changes again: “You’re right in my way, you’re in my fucking way!” Loud singing along. Punk for a good “session” (skating together). It’s getting dark in the skatepark. Then the session is over and everyone goes home, but someone is staying yet. One person dancing, pressing in rolling movements against the quarter. Pressing in, climbing up, pressing up, falling down. Floundering, wishing for control, discomfort. Quiet, but too agitated to rest. Three people moving around that, lights coming out of their hoods blinding us. Headlamps? We hear the humming chorus of a melody and a slow bassline in the background. The ramp still occupied by the person sticking to it like a bug run over. “There’s more to life than rush.” It’s getting light. The other skaters return with masked and hooded faces, waving a large white flag in the air. “I tried to calm myself down!” They don’t want to calm down. A new mood, a protest, a demonstration. Stomping, wrestling, dancing, yelling. Something is building up, punk, focussed energy, synchronised movements, jumps, intoxication, speed, to total exhaustion. Sweaty tops, a feeling like after a five-hour skating session.
Mette Ingvartsen recognised it: skating is a form of choreography. Executed by individuals, it happens mixed together and next to each other in the skatepark. One of the beginners’ first obstacles is to blend in properly, to understand how the routes run, take care, watch out, give way, make room. This evening’s skaters studied their choreography and got it down pat how to blend in. Still there has to be room to give way, just occasional collisions, nothing serious. Synchronised, at the same time wild, certainly not easy to skate. Skatepark does not present the phenomenal singular achievements of talended upcoming skaters or experienced virtuosos. Whoever wants to see technically perfect tricks can watch numerous contest and skating videos on YouTube. But this is not about sportive comparisons, but about collective expression in movements. Dealing with the stage, the nearness to dance, the challenge of the art context. All genders skate together, unconditionally, without ostentatious emancipation and girl power. Supportive and as a matter of course, we have arrived. The dramaturgy is founded on the music, the sequences, and every single person and their individual ways of moving. Un-perfect, therefore perfect. In any case not real. Of course we’re not sitting in front of a real skatepark. Then we would see naked torsos agressively grumbling to themselves from the frustration of not having landed a trick. We would shoo away little kids running through the park because this is not a playground. A beginner would hesitantly try their first steps, convinced that they’re in all the others’ way, not yet understanding that the others are also in their way. All would continously be confronted with comparison, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Experienced skaters would claim precedence. Obstacles would be occupied by skaters filming clips for their self-staging videos or social media accounts. We would render first aid to injured people and would have to determine how bad it is, and we wouldn’t want to show our pain, for “slamming” is part of it. Everyday scenes which we navigate, avoid, confront. The element of the skater protest taken up last in the performance doesn’t come out of nowhere. If you learn to fall down and stand up again, you understand how to fight. If you spent lots of time in skateparks, you know how diverse the community is. If you roll through the streets noisily, you understand how freedom feels, and that everyone should be entitled to this feeling. If you recognise when youth and sub-culture are getting instrumentalised, you become critical of the often opportunistic, because capitalist, skateboarding market. Skating FLINTA* people learn to handle problems in male-dominated spaces and to address them. Whoever experiences the feeling of autonomy through skating learns to be responsible for themselves, not to have to adapt. Whoever is committed to self-organised skating ranges knows how to defend their existence. Whoever is able to share a passion learns to act collectively. We do not find out what the skaters are stomping and waving flags for in the final scene, but I believe them. Something’s happening in you when you stand up for something together with others. Be it for a concrete political matter or for the common denominator, skating itself. Being on the boards here, skating, stomping, yelling, dancing moshpit. This expression of shared experience can only be pretended by the market, and only be presented by art.
 FLINTA* stands for females, lesbians, intersexual, non-binary, transsexual and a-gender persons as well as for persons feeling they belong to the collective term.
Shirin Omran grew up in Vienna and is a designer engaged in the issues of identity and portrait, youth and sub-culture, migration and cultural conflicts, gender and stereotypes, as well as irritation and observation. She teaches art and design as well as technics and design at a Viennese school and is a skateboard trainer and youth worker in the non-profit associations Skateboard Club Vienna and Verein Zeit!Raum. Moreover, she is part of the Austrian skating scene politically and as a designer, and currently engaged in further studies in the fields of autonomous free spaces, social equalisation, and gender-sensitive pedagogics.