It isn’t a surprise that the Area51 Skate Park in Eindhoven is becoming better known across the world than the city’s most famous sons of PSV Eindhoven. This massive indoor park is one of a kind.
Kids from all across the Benelux come there to ride and it isn’t just because of the park. The staff doe a great job of creating an atmosphere that embraces experimentation, failure and a spirit of fun.
And man, these midgets could ride. There were a couple of them who I’m sure are the offspring of a Tony Hawk video game. Twice the size of the board, fearless and looking for immediate gratification, while talent evolves with every generation, the spirit of your predecessors’ doesn’t always survive. The guys who run the park all spoke of their concern that skating was becoming too much of an organized sport. The majority of the kids consider themselves ‘street skaters,’ but according to their mentors, the majority of those rarely ride the streets.
So when we were invited to do some workshops with the kids, the aim quickly became to give them a fun taste of the romance each of the workshop leaders has had with a skateboard and try to spark a creative switch.
Dave the Chimp intended to help them salvage waste and then work with it to create their own skateable art objects. Wayne Horse wanted to teach them to make piñatas stuffed with feathers, in a baseball with mailboxes sort of ride and smash way. Nomad planned to teach them to let go, working to build intricate sculptures that would take a week to make and get destroyed in a matter of seconds (the Celebrity Deathmatch which came to be, was the result of this initial idea).
East Eric used the occasion to make a new invention, and then passed this new weapon on to the kids, teaching them how to find what they need and make each piece before testing their work and learning to paint by board.
In theory, these were all great ideas, but there was one thing we didn’t think about. Kids come to Area51 to skate. As we explained the workshops, half looked constipated and the other half looked like they had bed bugs. It was the expression they carry when they’re bored at school and within minutes more than half the group had walked bluntly out of the room. I’m pretty sure, had I been them I’d have done the same.
While Eric eventually left the room with a new set of students, the three other artists were left there agreeing that they’d have probably walked out too. They decided to turn the workshops into a performance and amuse themselves: The Celebrity Death Match
They created four characters, who would be dropped into the bowl to do battle.
Round 1: The Grime Ripper vs. Ghettorantuala / LaFonda Beyonder vs. Doug the Plug
Winner advances. Loser gets a beating.
As preparations for the show moved on, the kids could start to see what this was all about and one by one, then two by two and four by four they rolled back into the workshops and began cutting their own weapons out of sheets of wood, painting their own sponsor banners and taking in enough paint fumes that the rest of us had bad flashbacks.
The show took place at 21:00 on Saturday the 11th of September. 9 years later and there was to be carnage once again. Each character came out to a track that could have been written for them and amazingly all of them survived the drop and took the fight to their opponents.
That was the point where it all got a bit Lord of the Flies. There was Mousse in the air and a chimp in the bowl, blood on the floor and a smell of hot dog and ferret that you could almost touch. Doug the Plug was a disappointment, but Beyonder’s backside was everything it was hyped up to be. A good time was had by all.
The day after I asked two 16 year olds what they’d thought about the show and they agreed that it was ‘weird,’ ‘special,’ and like nothing they’d every seen before.
Mission Accomplished. Stay away from the Salmon Mousse!