Theory: a threat or an opportunity?

This week two students walked out of my class at the art academy in Rotterdam; they disagreed with my connecting situationism and skateboarding. After the coffee break they unsubscribed at the administration office, stating provocatively that they ‘couldn’t learn anything in my class’.

What happened? Were they right? I recognized an old conflict that runs through the academy, and that runs through the art world. I had invaded their territory, attempted to conquer it by theorising their world and challenging their autonomy. Skating has nothing to do with theory and therefore theorising it must be rejected. And why would they be wrong? All subcultures are by definition threatened by dissolving into commercialism and mainstream, by institutionalising through theory. They thrive on their exclusiveness, their homogeneous and alternative identity, their codes and rules. Therefore, if not well protected, they are threatened by extinction.

That’s one reading of this dispute, a proper one and I don’t disagree with my two former students in this regard – though a good discussion might have solved it in another way. Nevertheless, I want to look at this issue from another point of view.

Regarding the discussion we had, I merely wanted to point out that skating is an innovative movement, a group of people challenging the city as it was conceived by its architects. When the philosopher Gilles Deleuze wrote his key work The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, he was embraced by surfers who recognized his ‘living in the fold’ as their ‘surfing in the wave’, the fold of nature. Similar to my connection between skating and situationism it’s a clear example of the crossover. For the surfers the ideas of Deleuze enhanced their experience in ‘the tube’, rather than taking it down.

The crossover between theory and practice should be similar to the crossover in music styles, or the crossover between hip hop music, graffiti and break-dance, or the crossover between philosophy and surfing mentioned above. It leads to differentiation and by opening up one expression for the other, crossover becomes a tool for innovation and empowerment. Instead of an antagonistic relation in which theory colonizes territories, I’d rather see it as a collaboration aiming at opening up new territories.

Jeanne van Heeswijk – De strip

This can be witnessed strongly in the way urban counter cultures, such as skating, created an anarchistic model of living in the city and inspired all kinds of alternative expressions. It can traced back to the trend of galleries squatting abandoned buildings, artists acting out interventions in public space, rather than making commissioned works, temporary appropriation of abandoned patches of land for leisure activities, community practice in art and architecture, which develops alternative strategies for the redevelopment of neighbourhoods, political stencil art, recycling of buildings, places and materials, etc.

It’s just one line of thought with regards to a benevolent exchange between theory and practice, but I think work needs to be done to close the gap!

Suzanne Lacy – The roof is on fire


1 Response to “Theory: a threat or an opportunity?”

  1. 1 Felicitas December 30, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    I used to be suggested this blog via my cousin. I am now
    not sure whether or not this post is written via him as nobody else understand such designated about
    my difficulty. You’re amazing! Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Recent articles

“Veiling the unveiled truth”: the conceptual art of Silvio Berlusconi
Published August 3, 2008 by Antonio Scarponi

We all know that the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is a man of talents. First of all he is a man of spectacle, a perfect actor from the old school. He is able to dance, sing and his practical jokes are famous world wide [...] We all know these skills, but recently in two occasion he demonstrated also to have great talent as conceptual artist.
Made in Sweden
Published July 9, 2008 by Trial and error

On a recent journey we visited two well-known Asian landmarks: The Chinese Dragon Gate and the Royal Thai Pavilion, both located in remote places in Sweden.
From motorcycles to 3,5 million pieces of art
Published July 3, 2008, 2008 by Marja Salaspuro and Sergio Davila

Can classical conservative museum structure keep its historically layered architecture, rooms, collections and objects – and still attract the interest of the modern visitors, mainstream tourists and experience seeking travelers? A philosophical reconsideration around the purpose of museums in our era and the architect’s role as a curator.

Popular articles

My Sweden: Clean spaces, Clean information
Published June 12, 2007 by Trial and Error

”I dont understand what you mean by street art. If it has no permission, it is regular destruction and should be punished. I think it is equal to destroying someones car.”
Mikael Söderlund, vice mayor Stockholm ...
Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder where you are?
Published January 3, 2008 by Katja Aglert

Imagine a future generation who has never seen a star in real life. It’s a future when the night sky has transformed into a thick layer of artificial light and micro particles that doesn’t let through the sight of any stars or planets, not even the moon is visible. What effect would that have on us and other life forms on earth? ...



%d bloggers like this: