Skateboarding in the Audain Art Museum

at the Audain Art Museumn

By Katherine Fawcett

Amir Zaki - Concrete Vessel 55, 2018
archival pigment print - 60 x 75 inches - Image courtesy of the artist


o helmets, knee and elbow pads are required, but be prepared for a wild ride of boundary pushing and expectation crushing at Whistler’s Audain Art Museum’s (AAM) latest exhibition. Out of Control: The Concrete Art of Skateboarding is an exhilarating exploration of the relationship between skateboarding and contemporary art. The exhibition will appeal to a wide audience, including skateboarders, art lovers, and anyone interested in modern culture through the lens of counter-culture history, socio-politics, the environment, and the aesthetic. It is curated by long-time skateboarder Patrik Andersson, an independent curator and critic of historical and contemporary art who teaches at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, and organized by Kiriko Watanabe, the AAM’s Gail & Stephen A. Jarislowsky Curator. The show features 19 artists, the majority from British Columbia, whose work evokes the vital connection skateboarding has to identity, community, and risk-taking in our increasingly monitored and controlled public spaces.

Installation view of the Tom & Teresa Gautreau Galleries, featuring Out of Control: The Concrete Art of Skateboarding.

Curator’s Tour of Out of Control: The Concrete Art of Skateboarding.
Amir Zaki
Concrete Vessel 75, 2018
archival pigment print - 60 x 75 inches
Courtesy of the artist

“The exhibition is the largest contemporary art exhibition in the museum’s six-year history,” said Dr. Curtis Collins, AAM director and chief curator. The show covers two floors of the Audain and includes fabric arts, watercolour, photography, video, architecture, marble sculpture, music, poetry and furniture design. All this, just a stone’s throw away from Canada’s second-largest skateboard park.

Samuel Roy-Bois
Black Mountain (Burnt Stick and Five Cans), 2021
archival pigment print - 60 x 75 inches
Image courtesy of the artist


Bracken Hanuse Corlett
The Drop, 2022
double projection, digital animation
site-specific installation
Courtesy of the artist

Skateboarding began as a counter-cultural way for youth to take advantage of the concrete urban environment. It was a twist on the more mainstream sports of surfing, roller skating, and skiing. Once seen as a rebellious activity — the skateboard was described in the 1960s as the “Devil’s Toy”— it is now more firmly planted in the mainstream. However, despite skateboarding’s successful debut at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and the proliferation of skate parks around the world, there is still an undercurrent of rebelliousness and risk-taking in the skater culture. It’s this attitude of independence and freedom that Out of Control celebrates.

The exhibition consists of several distinct rooms. Some have an “obstacle course” vibe, where visitors are encouraged to meander through and take their time to navigate the space. The works are grouped from room to room thematically, with ideas such as barriers in the public sphere, community, revealing the hidden, making use of wasted spaces and music, poetry, disenfranchisement, and youth culture morphing into one another.


Mikaela Kautzky - Adventure Skateground, 2019
8mm film
7 min. 38 sec., colour, sound
Courtesy of the artist


 Hannah Dubois - Ollie by Taylor, 2022
duratrans print mounted in lightbox
26 x 38 inches framed
Courtesy of the artist

Visitors are greeted by a double projection film installation of an animated Indigenous character on a skateboard moving through a digital Indigenous wonderland. “The Drop,” by Bracken Hanuse Corlett from the Wuikinuxv and Klahoose nations, drew from a video game he is developing with the National Film Board of Canada. It’s a mesmerizing starting point for the gallery journey.

In the largest room, several concrete barriers, exactly like those that are used as dividers on roads and highways, are arranged seemingly haphazardly. Upon closer inspection, the barriers are revealed to be carved in beautiful, smooth, heavy and fragile marble. The pieces by Sea to Sky artist Cameron Kerr lead the viewer to reexamine something common in our everyday landscape.


Curator’s Tour of Out of Control: The Concrete Art of Skateboarding.
- Raphaël Zarka
Paving Space—Regular Score, W9M1 (detail), 2022
Douglas fir | modular sculptures, variable dimensions
Courtesy of the artist and Michel Rein | Paris/Brussels


Andrew Kent
The Year Punk Broke, 2019
watercolour on paper and acrylic on plywood | variable dimensions
Courtesy of the artist

Can the ordinary be beautiful? Can the banal be interesting? Is haphazard intentional? Can utilitarian be artistic?

I was particularly drawn to the large photographs of empty skate parks throughout America, by Amir Zaki. His breathtaking images elevate the everyday to the extraordinary. The multi-layering and tiny details in the huge works create a sense of hyper-realism and give viewers the feeling that they are standing in the centre of these manmade (yet uninhabited), familiar (yet entirely new) spaces.

Christian Huizenga’s architectural models of living/working spaces and furniture that double as skateboard ramps are beautiful and functional. Huizenga brought local community members together at the gallery this fall, when local children worked together to build a chair/skateboard ramp that is currently on display in the Upper Gallery.


Karin Bubaš
Blue Hair and Nose Manual (after Ellen O’Neal), 2021
archival pigment print with matte UV laminate - 40 x 110 inches
Courtesy of the artist, Monte Clark Gallery, Vancouver

Another favourite installation is French artist Raphaël Zarka’s nine-module sculptural group called “Paving Space—Regular Score, W9M1.” Zarka, who has published three books on the history of skateboarding, designed these interesting geometric shapes with corners and curves, and had them built by a timber mill and woodworking shop in Squamish. Made with locally sourced Douglas fir, the finished sculptures were arranged for the public to skate on at the Whistler Racket Club before the opening of Out of Control. Once the sculptures were christened with bumps, scuffs and dents, they were moved into the AAM.
Out of Control: The Concrete Art of Skateboarding runs until Jan. 8, 2023.
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