A big part of what we perceive as the world around us is made by surfaces, shallow or not, the sense that plays a big part on the way we perceive our reality is the sight. We see patterns, we see a street sign, we see an arrow, we see wood, and we see concrete.
What we maybe do not think about is that surfaces are able to convey sense, a meaning, something that we automatically read as a language. For example, if we walk around the city and come across a bench whose surfaces look like wood, we tend to make a connection with trees, nature, traditional ways of living, and back-in-the-days-lifestyle. On the other hand, if we see a white line on a grainy black surface that looks like asphalt we would naturally assume that it is a street line and this, in most cases, will convey the idea of the street, of transport, of traffic.
I think most of the people that will read this text will agree with my association of asphalt with a street and wood with traditions. But, luckily, things are not always this simple. Not everybody has the same interpretation of the language of surfaces and that is the beauty of it. Ivan Jablonka, historian and writer, wrote that one of the fundamental characteristics of a literary text is that it always allows more than one interpretation. If we look at things this way surfaces are not only a language we can read but also a kind of literature.
The people involved in this project, myself included, are well aware of the literary character of surfaces. We’ve all spent, and still are spending, a shameful amount of time on a skateboard. All this time spent in a city, for a different purpose than that of most city users, shaped our perception of its surfaces. In my head, a marble surface with black marks on it conveys the idea of “motion”. But I am not only a skateboarder, I play other roles in society so I can also understand how for somebody else this surface can convey the idea of “stain” or of “dirtiness”.
The interest of this exhibition is to take this concept out of the skateboarding world. By mixing surfaces and exposing them to unusual stimulations, in other words by shuffling the deck, this exhibition might spark different “readings” of the same surface and therefore make its literariness more visible, and not only visible.
The perception of surfaces is not only related to the sight. We use other senses to “read” a piece of wood, a sidewalk or a sheet of paper. That is why this exhibition add layers of interpretation by stimulating the hearing and by letting a sense into the room that is often left out of white wall exhibition: the touch. As far as surfaces are concerned, it is plain to see how important touch is for their literary characteristics. Surfaces feel – marble feels smooth, concrete feels hard, and jelly feels soft.
In modern times, hygiene, education (“look but do not touch”) and social norms all relegated touch to a secondary role, only good for intimacy, giving more importance to the sight. Only in recent years we have been showing new interest in this sense, and this exhibition goes in that same direction.
Skateboarding played a role also in sparking these thoughts. As skateboarders we fall a lot. Whether we like it or not we still touch the dirty, polluted surfaces of our cities. This exhibition encourages you to do the same. Unlike most exhibitions on a white wall, this allows you to see and touch in order to have the more personal literary interpretation of the surfaces presented that you can have.
There is one more thing to take in consideration to read the surfaces presented in the gallery: they, like the surfaces outside the gallery, are always changing, evolving. The traces of skateboard wheels on a wall can add a layer to its surface and change your “reading” of it.
In the same way, the individual contributions made by skateboarders, but also by you who are reading this, walking in the space, drinking, talking and touching will add new layers to the surfaces and possible new readings of them.
By shuffling the deck, these works help us build our own reading of the surfaces around us and therefore add meaning to our surroundings and its changes. Whether it is cloth, asphalt or a mountain.