Progression (however exciting it might be) vs. Conservatism (however meagre and grey it might be) is a tale as old as time. It is the main event in everything from major politics, to the elitism of art. In fact, this was the subject of my dissertation, as I studied why music fans were so desperate to cling on to physical formats of albums. While some may argue in favour of it being the only true way to consume music from your own home and claim to be a fan, even some legends disagreed. Look no further than David Bowie’s famous predictions of what the internet would become, from an interview with Jeremy Paxman in 1999. While he acknowledges that changes were taking place for better and for worse, he had already embraced it.
Like many others though, at least in the area of hobbies and entertainment, these are all arguments that I really wish that I could hide from. Have your your sub-genres and little communities and have fun.
So why am I posting this? I was somewhat inspired by a video that I watched earlier by WIRED, which featured skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, discussing the difficulty of skateboarding tricks in succession. I don’t know much about the subject, although I wish I had done back in my teens. It’s a scene that I look back upon favourably, but at the time I made the mistake of not embracing it and actually stepping out of my bedroom for once. All I knew was he was the best on the earth, because he pulled off a trick called a mythological ‘900’ at the X-Games. I heard all about it from a friend, but couldn’t find a video of this amazing moment on Kazaa that was of high enough quality that Hawk wasn’t just a squiggling ball of pixels. I couldn’t even do one of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3. The fact that he was a walking franchise at all confirmed his importance. He was the personification of the sport.
At least, that was what I thought. I know that I’m not the only person with this frame of mind, and as of 2019, many people have that mindset. Unfortunately, they’re annoyingly antagonistic about it. Earlier this year, Mitchie Brusco took this further, becoming the first person to land a ‘1260’ (and interestingly only getting a silver medal in the event that he landed it in), and amidst all of the excitement, there were still some killjoys who were ready to complain. The rotations beyond the ‘900’ have required the use of a different kind of ramp to what Hawk used, and therefore it was demoted some as ‘cheating’, as though there was only one strand of rules of skateboarding that was allowed.
In this video, Hawk gladly reels off tricks and acknowledges his cut-off point, saying that everything past his ‘900’ on a vert ramp is out of his field of expertise – not wrong. This comment sarcastically sums up the situation well.
Hawk’s achievements rather than words had become everything that the sport orbited around, and despite the fact that he is no stranger to being a pioneer, as he was the face of a great renaissance in mainstream skate culture in the early 2000s, there has been a reluctance to move on. In fact even he has ventured into insane experiments recently, as in 2016 he was first to skate down a horizontal loop. It is as though his desire to move forward is one of innovation, as opposed to numerical progressions of twisting in the air. Hawk also mentions Rodney Mullen, who invented ground moves such as the kickflip, something that everyone does now, in total awe. Hawk was the man who popularised extreme twists, and now it’s time for the next generation to take them and do something completely different.
This brings me back to the idea of elitism in artwork. The fact that Hawk can sum it up in what on the surface seems like a whole different game, speaks volumes about how linear progression in what you do for enjoyment is definitely not the only way forward: “Skateboarding can be as complex as you want it to be. Skateboarding at its base is a form of expression, and for me it is my artform. It’s also a sport. It’s also a lifestyle. But at its very core, it’s your voice. You can do it in any style, and in any form you choose. The possibilities are endless.”
I wish that the world would cheer up and give this a bit more thought.