August 2018 - present
SK8scapes, Ucanskate, Monkey Skateboards, F*ck La Migra, Laboratorio para la Ciudad
Hesner Sánchez, T.H.O.T.H, Mike Maese
Anónima (design), SK8scapes (supervision), Distrito Industrial (construction)
Museo Tamayo (Mexico City, Mexico)
Fundación Olga y Rufino Tamayo, Central de Muros, ArtCenter College of Design
SKATELAB (Laboratorio de skate) was a project that temporarily appropriated an unused pavillion in the back of a museum, creating a space dedicated to play and skating to explore the contemporary culture of skateboarding in Mexico City. It was an initiative that launched as part of my three month residency at Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo, a contemporary art museum located in Mexico City.
The architecture of Skatelab was deliberately minimalistic, serving as an alternative if not an antithesis to the rise of skatepark construction in Mexico City. Designed to be adapted towards experimentation, expansion and appropriation, the space was equipped with only a few permanent elements and the rest consisted of temporary objects and things that could be appropriated for skating.
The goal of Skatelab was two-fold:
(1) Investigate how large-scale and institutional urban design initiatives such as the construction of state-of-the-art skateparks, which create highly scripted and programmed play spaces, effectively deprive skaters of their ability to exercise their spatial and creative agency in public spaces: the streets, plazas, sidewalks, parks and the act of appropriating of other unused, abandoned and/or forgotten spaces.
(2) Create a channel through which non-institutional actors, such as skaters, can enter and creatively occupy spaces with institutional power, such as museums, and develop new working relationships in between.
SKATELAB also contributed to creating different social dynamics with the public or non-skaters, most visible in the ways through which the passerby in the park started to occupy the space for recreational and entertainment purposes (such as playing on the ramps without using a skateboard, or simply coming to Skatelab to watch skaters skate). The museum produced rules, policies, and signages in reaction to the new socio-spatial relations produced through the act of skaters entering institutional spaces.
During the course of the summer, Skatelab hosted a number of events including a skate market, and a skate picnic. Eventually, the museum started to work more directly with the skaters. Brenda Garcia and Eva Cardenas in the education department were two irreplaceable players who were instrumental in sustaining the project as I managed it remotely back in Los Angeles, and together they helped me coordinate logistics between skaters and the museum. Skaters began to bring their own initiatives, and the range of events grew: DIY parties with playlists curated by skaters, more skate markets, an exhibition about skate graphics that invited many of the key skate brands in Mexico City, a skate film festival, and a skate school for children especially girls. With limited resources and budget, we essentially replicated and engineered the creative practice of skaters in an institutional space, and the enormous and generous support from the skateboarding community was the key element that helped made the projects work.
Skatelab continues to explore how contemporary practices of play in the city are shaped and informed through institutional modes of design practice. The space currently remains open for all types of everyday activities as well as events that continue to develop new relationships between skaters and Museo Tamayo. The ramps in Skatelab are soon to be handed over to Veronica, an extremely talented young Mexican skater, and transported to her house where she will open her own skate school for youth. The spirit of Skatelab continues to grow and hopes to take on other forms of design practice in the museum.
Photo credits: Reina Imagawa, Hesner Sánchez, Ernesto Rosas, Miguel Rojas Rea, and Baruch Berrera
A special thanks goes out to all of the skaters, the artists, and the many photographers and videographers who have documented this experience and helped make it possible; my skate mentors Hesner Sánchez, Martin Núñez, Erik Carranza and Oyuki Matsumoto, and Caleb Gutiérrez who supported the crucial maintenance of the ramps; and last but not least, my extremely supportive team at Taller Tamayo including Manuel Alcalá, Brenda Garcia and Eva Cardenas to name a few.