Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Cross Pollination

The email inbox for Awkward Magazine tends, for the most part, to stay relatively static. I get the odd email from industrious artist friends like Carl Gent and Ian Pons Jewell about their exciting new projects and exhibitions, as well the occasional bona fide submission for the zine, but for the most part the communicative landscape remains fairly barren. I have to admit that I rather like it this way, for instance I'm yet to receive one electronic prank call telling me that my bank account has been awarded 7 Million Pounds, a transaction that simply requires an email reply containing the actual details of said account, plus full name, home address and birthdate for completion. The relative inactivity of the account also means that all and any correspondences are met with full care and attention, which makes events like today's all the more joyful.

I received an email this morning containing one simple question; had I heard of AWKWARD: A Detour by Mary Cappello???

I hadn't, but a quick look at the author's website made me glad that I now had.

If you're interested, have a look for yourself at

While admittedly this fanzine's content bears only an abstracted relation to its title, the eloquence Mary Cappello is using to relate her chosen subject can only help to bolster the understanding of what it is that we - Awkward Magazine - are trying to do here. I mean, Awkward (the zine) could have gone in lots of different ways. It could quite easily have turned into a comedy routine; a juxtapositional exercise in the jolt of incongruous collage; an account of its various authors' most self-conscious moments. What I happily think that it has actually become is something far harder to categorize, something like a collection of works that each don't quite fit, but are fitted, together, in some sheets of paper, and delivered to your door, for a reason that none of the involved parties quite understand in its entirety. It's this edge of understanding and comfort that I guess is the most important thing as far as Awkward is concerned. I get the impression that Mary Cappello's effort is something of a tidier, more eloquent, professional affair, being a series of memoirs and historical layers, you know, like a real proper book like wat an aktual orfar as rit, but envy aside, I really hope that there is some kinship somewhere in there somewhere between the two namesakes. 

(You'll notice that I've tried to write this post as if I know how to use language like an adult. This is of course in case she reads it. Think I've pulled it off?)

Anyway, in order to reestablish the status quo here, I think it's time for this week's youtube hit.


Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Pontus Alv

This post is about one of my favourite skateboarders of all time. His name is Pontus Alv and he is a glorious weirdo from Sweden. He's one of those (dare I say it?) neo-mythical human beings with the will, the ability, the passion, the drive and the balls to make his indelible mark on the world and then stand proudly beside it in the full light of the endless daytime that is contemporary media. 

In 2005 he released a skateboard video called The Strongest Of The Strange and I'm going to soliloquize my arse off about it right now, so skip to the end if you're prone to boredom and temporary brain death.

I went to art school and studied video art for three years. I sat through silent 2 hour Stan Brakhage films and I am still deeply in love with many of the things I saw, the experiences I had and the thoughts that I thought I thought during that period of intense revelation, experimentation and aesthetic awakening. It may sound arrogant but the reason I mention that stuff is because to me that's where TSOTS belongs, up there with the best there is. Now I'm not saying I'm right and I'm not saying that Pontus' film has the grace, concentration or esquisitely distilled quality of a Brakhage or of a John Smith or of a Maya Deren piece, but what I am saying is that it is really, really, really good. The Strongest Of The Strange isn't necessarily about process in the same way as much of the great, cannonical video and film work of the recent past. Instead it is a film about being alive and doing what you love. At the end of the day it is 'just' a skateboard video, and as such it also belongs 'down there' with your home movies, with the camera phone clips of drunk adolescent friends jumping into bushes, with the crappy iMovie edits you made at sixth form college. Of course it also belongs alongside the boundlessly beautiful video your parents shot at the hospital the day you came into the world, you know, the one where your Dad furtively wipes a tear from his eye as he gets nudged into frame. This synthesis of relation, or synergy of belonging, or cross pollination of genre, or whatever you choose to call it is part of, but not the whole reason why I feel so enamoured by Pontus' skateboard films. He includes so much of himself in the work that it becomes impossible not to judge him and the video as the same thing. Try emulating that. It's pretty fucking difficult. I think the real trick might be to remain relentlessly naked, honest and aspirational about what it is that you mean to the things, the people and the spaces around you, and to keep on doing that every single day. It's no mean feat and translating it into moving image is a whole other kettle of fish, but I'd venture to say that when you get it right, you'll know, because it feels almost exactly the same as waking up from a dream where all of your best friends were around you. The only major difference with video is that it is drawn from time and posited in potentially infinite different times, and spaces, in lots of different somewhere elses, where it sits waiting in binary form for any old Joe to come along and extract the contents, either whole or piecemeal, from inside its digital capsule, sucking what they please into their day, or their night, whenever, wherever, whyever they choose, setting it apart from the way in which we each experience each other's human times... as people, rather than as representative codes of 1's and 0's... depending on how and why and where and when you look at it... but I'm getting lost.

TSOTS is low brow and high brow. It's got this kind of foetal afterglow. If you're a real intellectual, like I so wish to become sometimes, then you should probably hate it. I mean, Charles Bukowski is just too much for a lot of serious people right? But fuck them. They don't know what they're talking about. They only know what they're going to talk about next. It's different.

This youtube clip is of Bukowski-aholic, questionably talented poet, heavily tattoed antihero type and undeniably forceful skateboarder Scott Bourne. It is his featured section from TSOTS,  a potion of which is set again one of my favourite songs by Leonard Cohen. I personally think that the introductory sequence is among the best moments in the entire film. 

Pontus' new video is called In Search Of The Miraculous. It is in all good skateshops now and can also be bought directly from Pontus himself at 

I haven't seen the new film yet but early accounts are very, very, very good. I suggest you buy it and put some hard earned Euros into the hands of someone who deserves the support, but hey, don't listen to me, I'm just a guy who gives a shit.