HARRY PYE’s POSTCARD FROM LONDON
NIGHT ON EARTH
ENCOUNTERS WITH POWER
MY VIDEO COLLECTION
SEDIMENTS OF SPACES AND STORIES
INTERVIEW WITH ANDRES EHIN
While walking from St Paul’s to the Saatchi Gallery, thinking of what to write for Epifanio 3, after being asked to contribute with a short essay on the essence of art accompanied with images, the sound of clattering urethane on concrete broke my concentration – the sound that I had been accustomed to in my teenage years while living in Finland. As I turned round I saw a kafuffle ensuing involving a rather surly looking security guard and rather more surly looking teenage skateboarders. Being the inquisitive person that I am, I decided to meander over and see what all the fuss was about. As I reached the melee, the skateboarders had picked up their boards and departed, looking more than peeved. Still being nosey, I decided to stick my oar in and go and ask the security guard why he was having such stern words with a bunch of boys quite obviously just having fun. He politely informed me that “their sort” was not welcome round these parts and they already knew it, so he was just moving them on, as he had done many times in the past. Confused at what the security guard had just told me, I decided to pursue the matter and inquire as to why “their sort” were not welcome. “It’s not me, I quite like skateboarding,” said the security guard, “this is private property and the people who own it do not like skateboarders, they think they destroy everything and cause trouble”. Intrigued to learn more about what I had just witnessed I went looking for the skaters, but when failing to find them, I continued my journey to the Saatchi Gallery on the South Bank.
Walking across the Thames I was thinking about my assignment to write about the essence of art, but I could not help thinking about what I had just witnessed. I was pondering over the similarities of being an artist, making work and those young men who were “moved along” only a few minutes ago. How both movements are dependent on public and private spaces to express themselves.
If you have ever been to the South Bank in London you will surely have noticed large gatherings of skateboarders. I passed the area where most seem to congregate, by chance I bumped into an old friend who is a skateboarder. I explained to him what I had witnessed earlier and asked his opinion of it and if anything similar had happened to him. I soon realized that I had opened a huge can of worms that I never knew even really existed. When does the use of public or private space become undesirable? Are public spaces still for public use? Why does mainstream society perceive certain forms of creativity as anti-social behaviour? The essence of art should surely be about expressing one’s self and one’s ideas in a creative way. This expression can never be universally understood and perhaps it should not be, but if you do not understand something clearly you should not condemn it. For example, graffiti was once solely thought of as an anti-social action (of course in some cases it is), but recently it is a more acceptable form of art in its own right. So much so that even some of the large corporations that own private spaces employ graffiti imagery for their own benefit.
Our conversation continued for a few hours and my visit to the Saatchi Gallery was soon forgotten, my mission of writing this review turned into me browsing through a photographic portfolio of skateboarding and discussing the differences of the private and public spaces, where we all wonder through, but only stop to think about when we are faced with some absurdity, that even the people who are ‘enforcing’ the rules do not believe in. What is the difference even between private and public spaces anymore, when increasingly public spaces prohibit people from using them in ways that are perceived undesirable, and who makes these decisions, especially when we are not talking about groups of people fighting in the street, but people using the environment around them in a way that is perhaps not the intended use of the space? Does this make it any less valid activity than sitting down and having your lunch in the very same space?
is a London-based artist. She comes from Finland.