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Temporary Autonomous Aggro Zone at Marginal Utility


[Lauren explores an exhibition documenting the joyful anarchy of skate culture through photography and film. — the Artblog editors]

Combine the pirate-utopian ideals of anarchist writer and poet Hakim Bey, the aesthetic of 1980s Transworld Skateboarding Magazine, and a pinch of collaboration, and you have the works of Phil Jackson, Rick Charnoski, and Coan Buddy Nichols. Like illustrations for Bey’s 1991 essay Temporary Autonomous Zone, the photos and film on view at Marginal Utility convey the  uprising, self-governance, utopia and anarchy Bey advocates with the love and enthusiasm of an insider.

Motion captured


Marginal Utility created a labyrinth of sorts with freestanding walls to showcase Jackson’s framed, modest-scale color photographs, and First Friday viewers were pawns in the cleverly designed installation. An alcove-like space with a few chairs in the back of the gallery became the theatre for Charnoski and Nichols’ film Fruit of the Vine.

Jackson, who is a skateboarder and has been documenting the subculture for years, captures breathtaking photographs of that world, bringing it to life in full-blown, chromogenic color. Photos of skaters in action; dilapidated, graffiti-covered underground worlds, and tons of spray paint do, in fact, illustrate Hakim Bey’s autonomous utopia to a T. Jackson’s photographs are an intimate look into a life that many of us have only seen from the outside.

Photo #5, “Andrew Exiting,” displays a man, almost perfectly centered in the image, holding a skateboard and descending, like Alice, down a rabbit hole lined in graffiti to a light at the end of the tunnel–or rather just a well-lit, grassy area. The viewer is unable to see the figure’s face, but we can see his entire form, the slightly ducking gesture of his body, and a pair of high, white-and-red striped socks. The graffiti surrounding him covers neglected walls, the grassy haven in front of him permeated with fragments of broken concrete.

Further down the wall rests Photo #11, “Winter Overview,” a dark photograph of a dimly lit, abandoned, and dilapidated warehouse filled with ramps and with the grafitti tag SHORTYS emblazoned across the upper half of the high walls. People in the distance are milling about; sunlight bleeds in through the open space where walls are falling apart and reflects off the dark, damp concrete. This building, SHORTYS, is like Mecca for the people in there, and Jackson captures the rays of sunlight as an almost sacred glow.

Brotherhood in a secret world

Rick Charnoski and Coan Buddy Nichols filmed Fruit of the Vine in 2000 using Super 8 Film. The film is 56 minutes inside the world of skateboarding in swimming pools, and similar to Jackson’s photography, it gives viewers who are foreign to this world an exclusive look inside.

Photos hung at eye level make for a more intimate viewing experience I bet this guy agrees
An installation view of Marginal Utility. 

Charnoski and Nichols capture themselves and others skating abandoned pools, discussing how every pool is different, and how every time they skate, it’s a whole new adventure. Their band of skaters is a modern set of Lost Boys, with a strong sense of friendship and trust radiating from the screen.

This film and Jackson’s photographs show a Neverland that is a tale of brotherhood in a secret world.

Marginal Utility, by the way, lives up to its name.  The windowless, architecturally non-specific space is utilitarian. This works to the art’s advantage, however, because it leaves nothing to look at except the art.

Temporary Autonomous Aggro Zone is on view at Marginal Utility through July 27, 2014. It is located at 319 N. 11th St., 2nd floor.