滑板運動

滑板DIY 最高之與地共存:消解疆界、性別與階級的烏托邦之 Zika Farm 專訪

© Jaddie Fang / Red Bull Taiwan
他們自喻為「農民」,是滑板世界裡的耕作者。來看美國東岸巴爾的摩滑板人如何自造別具挑戰性的滑板地形。
由 小鬻(Jaddie Fang)採訪 編寫發佈於

For English version of this article, please scroll down.

Zika Farm
Zika Farm
空間裡瀰漫著社會關係;它不僅被社會關係支持,也生產社會關係和被社會關係所生產。」——昂利.列斐伏爾(Henri Lefebvre)
馬里蘭州巴爾的摩因過去歷史上帶種族主義的城市規劃與政策,呈現了長久以來社區發展資源不均等的問題;如公共休憩與大眾交通運輸設施投力於白人或中產社區其長年積累下來的結構化優勢,反之,非裔美國人社區長年積累下來的居住環境劣勢,以城市地圖面來看便被區分且喻為「White L」與「Black Butterfly」。除了社區發展資源不均的問題,這個擁有六十多萬人口、五十六個社區的巴爾的摩城市,單以滑板公園建設來說,市區目前就不超過五座。或許正因如此,這座城市的 DIY 風氣也發展得格外蓬勃。
從2016年關閉的 Bell Foundry 藝術村裡 DIY 滑板場地至現今的 Zika Farm,巴爾的摩無論藝術或滑板的獨立場域,一直都處於四處流動的狀態,世代交替地再現、轉導及實踐空間多元使用的可能性。現代城市在與資本的權力結合之下的急遽擴張,資本主義以建立網絡的方式,以各種圈地式的手段進而使空間趨於形成同質化(homogeneity)及碎片化(pulverization)的消費場所,甚至出現閒置空間的沒落。於是,DIY 成為其中一種對抗空間同質化與資本主義,獨立實踐空間多元化的手法。或許我們可以說,DIY 滑板場地,是城市現代化之下的一種社會空間革命。
Zika Farm
Zika Farm
這群集結於巴爾的摩、各有所長的滑板人,他們自喻為「農民」(farmers),展現盧梭式圈地與史坦貝克的美國農耕精神,尋得一處他們命名為 Zika Farm 的地方,試圖以滑板為基底,秉持「與他者和平共存」如同弗洛姆的人本主義精神,打造一個人人都能感到友善的多元空間。不受限於所有權之佔地為王的舊式邏輯,他們以「挪用」與渴求體驗各種滑板地形的需求,在這有限的空間不斷地創造新事物,呈現社會空間必然包含的知識多樣性。Zika Farm農民們實踐空間的方式,正是體現了法國哲學家列斐伏爾所寫道:「現有空間或許無法滿足最初目的,也無法確立存在形式、功能及結構的存在。從某種意義上說,空間可能因此閒置,並且容易被轉移,再挪用與使用,與最初使用形式截然不同。
Zika Farm
Zika Farm
你們是何時開始 DIY 打造 Zika Farm 這個滑板空間?這地方老實說有點偏僻,你們是怎麼發現這裡並取得使用權?
Brad:我在 2016 年時發現這個地方。當時騎著單車四處找拍照的地方,順著火車鐵軌一路騎,就看到很小一條人造路徑的上坡路段。那時也只是好奇便沿著那條路騎進來,騎到這森林的中間發現這一整條水泥地的產業道路。發現這地方時,這裡都堆滿了垃圾,於是我們一一把垃圾清除,開始蓋一些小地形。一開始是未經許可沒錯,後來整個 DIY 建造的過程期間,我們聯繫了 BGE 電力公司與 CSX 鐵路運輸公司,與他們交涉取得建造滑板空間的許可。BGE 認為只要留足夠通道讓他們的公用車能通行就沒問題;CSX 則表示只要我們車輛不要堵住鐵軌,畢竟那是一條正常運行的火車鐵軌。我們實際上沒有完全合法的書面許可,但基本上所有政府的相關承包商都默許我們使用。我認為這是屬於城市的土地,並沒有什麼私有地的問題。
Pat:參與這個 DIY 工程的每個人都來自不同的背景。有些人曾參與過去另一個 DIY 滑板場地 Shrimptown 的工程,包括我在內及其他幾個人也都曾參與 Bell Foundry 的 DIY 滑板工程。南巴爾的摩還有一個 DIY 滑板場地,就是已經被拆掉還圍上柵欄的 RRWWTF。 就在那場地關閉後不久,Brad 帶我來這裡看這場地。記得自己告訴他「我不覺得這地方可以蓋滑板場地,因為這裡像個垃圾場而且偏僻得要死」。我想我們讓這裡維持了四年,很開心 Brad 當時做了對的決定,而我是錯的。
Zika Farm
Zika Farm
Pontus Alv 曾說:「 DIY 運動重要的是在於以不合法手段佔領一個空間,所以你做的事是有點違法,感覺像是個壞蛋——這種正是叛逆的龐克感。」你們是否認為 DIY 建造這地方是一種叛逆?什麼樣的動機促使你實踐這樣的想法?
Conner:我不能代表所有人的立場。我覺得它確實有一定程度的叛逆,但肯定絕大部分是因為做這件事很有趣,就像在這裡玩板一樣有趣,我認為大家一定也認為規劃和建構這一切充滿樂趣。 我們年紀大了,不是叛逆的料。從小到大生活在郊區就一直喜歡動手做些小道具來玩板,在這樣的環境下長大,我想就不是以表現叛逆為目的。 雖然那不是意圖,但或許是一種「副作用」;因為這些東西不該出現在這種地方,卻又被蓋在這裡。
Sean:這就像是你小時候想要建樹屋一樣,只是規模更大一些,風險也變得更高,所以是有一點叛逆沒錯。但這麼做的動機是能與朋友一起蓋東西,為這滑板社群盡一點心力,勝過於「對抗體制」的那種叛逆。這個板點隨時都有可能被關閉,世界各地的 DIY 板點都免不了會發生這種事。我們很清楚這一點,但仍會在每週末或每個月一次來這裡嘗試建造一些東西,或是投入心力在這個地方。
Brad:就叛逆而言,我認為打造這樣的空間很棒。美國歷史上,我們曾因擁有西部如此廣闊的地域,人們因此移居西部,政府也告訴你可以佔地為居,佔有你所拓掘的土地。當然,我們都曉得那些土地都是從最初就居住在那裡的原住民所奪取而來。但有趣的是,這樣的拓居現象不再發生了。美國土地如此廣大,即使我們有這麼多的開放空間與土地,卻大多都是私有地。發現這樣的小小天地,一處我們能與流浪者寄居駐營的共處之地;這是一種「與他者和平共存」的狀態,而這樣的空間在美國是越來越少,人們運用閒置事物的能力也越來越低。我們本應是一個富饒膏腴之地的國家,然而國家政府卻大大失能地去實現這樣的願景。我認為公共空間被私有化是問題的一部分。如果說這是一種叛逆,我對於這樣的叛逆引以為傲。
Benny Kitzmiller
Benny Kitzmiller
你們認為這樣的精神近似於「蹲踞」嗎?
Brad:是有點像「蹲踞」,但我會說是使空間有所用處。約翰.史坦貝克(John Steinbeck)在《憤怒的葡萄》寫道休耕地對於飢腸轆轆的人來說是一種罪過(編按:因為無法生產糧食餵養挨餓的孩子,耕地並非為盈利而作)。妳看看四周,這就是我們的「休耕地」,如果只是放著不使用;過去這裡堆滿了垃圾,是一處被廢棄的土地。現在,當地滑板社群裡的許多人都覺得能隨性地來這裡玩,像是找到一個得以表現自我的空間。就這個意義上來說,我們做的事並沒有侵略或傷害到任何人。
Conner:Brad 與我曾去瑞典馬爾默城市的 DIY 板點 TBS(Train Bank Spot)及丹麥玩板。我想自己從中真正學到且值得談論的一件事是,我們無論在哪裡玩板都會受到當地人鼓舞。那裡的人會因為你使用閒置空間而感到開心,換作你若是在這裡隨便一個廣場玩板,就會被要求離開或甚至惹上犯法之罪。而在哥本哈根,當地人的態度則是「太好了,盡量玩吧。」
Pat:我會說這確實有點叛逆,對我來說則是一種自由。因為可以來這裡創造我們想親身體驗的事物。就某種意義層面而言,也反應了巴爾的摩城市滑板場不足的事實。 因此,來這裡實際建造我們想看到也想玩的滑板地形和道具,可以說是先前說的那種自由感。
Ty McCoy, Jono
Ty McCoy, Jono
你們是否有獲得任何市政府的公部門補助或私人經費以用來建蓋這個場地?
Pat:是自費的。 目前為止,我們做的東西都是靠自籌經費而來。有些在地社群的人給我們錢做這些事。譬如今天就有滑板人離開這裡時,塞給我十塊美金,超棒。大家沒有義務這麼做,但確實可以支持我們繼續做下去。我們也很幸運,之前 Red Bull 曾贊助我們一些經費蓋東西。再者,我們也做衣服來賣,還有辦表演來募款維持這場地的運作。
Conner:目前這個地方是處於最好的狀態;不是沒人管,就是大家對這地方的存在不為所知。而且我猜想(或者說我們等著看)之後是不是會繼續允許我們在這裡做的事;或者在這裡裝攝影機監視我們,或是要求我們要支付土地租金,我曾聽人說有些 DIY 場地得付租金。或甚至像 Shrimptown 一樣,DIY 道具全被拆掉,蓋一座全新的滑板場,而且還蓋得不是很理想。
Brad:如果我們到時面臨關閉場地的危機時,我想就會採取市政府核准的途徑了。那時一定竭盡所能讓這個場地合法化,在此之前,我們對這現況感到很滿足。
Ian Schaefer
Ian Schaefer
你們認為 DIY 板點與公共滑板場,兩者之間氛圍有差異嗎?
Brad:讓我覺得驕傲的一點是,我們一直相當積極要讓這個地方變成一個大家都覺得來者不拒的友善空間。我認為當地滑板場經常發生滑板人所引起的問題,他們要不質疑他人的性別認同,不然就是為難跨性者或同性戀的性向認同,諸如此類;使人感覺板場充斥著強烈的大男人主義氛圍,因此也衍生出很多問題。話雖這麼說,無論你是什麼樣的人,我們都歡迎大家來玩,希望讓這裡成為一個對跨性者友善、且不分種族與性向的友好空間。我們希望這裡是一個人人都能來去自如的地方,不會令人感到充滿侵略性或滿是「酷男味」,是一處對所有人都開放的所在。
Conner:之前才與朋友提過這裡和滑板場的差別。我們正為這裡的一切陶冶文化,因為我們對這個空間有責任。在地滑板場已存在好長一段時間,但一直都沒有真正負責管理的人,板場發生任何事也沒有人出面處理。我們為 Zika Farm 建立了一個 Instagram,藉此發文讓大家知道這裡的共處方式與氛圍,什麼能做及什麼不能做,以及什麼樣的行為在這裡並不受歡迎。
Conner McIntyre
Conner McIntyre
那麼你們會如何處理滑板人在 Zika Farm 所發生的衝突?
Conner:我們發佈過貼文,告訴大家如果這裡發生任何情況,請直接透過 Instagram 發送訊息給知會我們,讓我們了解情況以便採取適當的行動。
Pat:有很多人來這裡,分享同樣覺得板場充斥著大男人主義風氣的看法。幸好,我們這裡不需要處理這樣的事。我覺得許多處於我們所堅持觀點的對立面的人都不會來這裡,因為他們很清楚我們對於這些問題的立場並不與他們一致。我想滑板場是有好也有壞,因為任何人都能去那裡做任何事。滑板運動已經以一種特定的風氣和文化行之有年,現在則多了各式各樣的人參與其中。有些人習慣以前的方式,而且也不太想對初心者敞開胸懷。
Nico Trevizo
Nico Trevizo
我想藉由自己親身經歷來問這個問題。許多男性滑板人似乎總是會主動向板場初來報到的女性滑板人試圖以一種「調教」的態度教她們怎麼玩板。你們對此現象有何想法?
Pat:會有人總愛倚老賣老並因此覺得有優越感,但並非他們想的那樣,或許他們應該要謙虛一些。很多時候,許多男性滑板人未經詢問便主動向女性滑板人下指導棋,我常常看到這樣的情況發生。如果換作是,自己正嘗試做某件事,而旁人未經我同意就來調教指導,我也會覺得沮喪。我能了解這種挫敗感。
你們認為市政府公部門介入滑板文化的最好方式是什麼?你們覺得巴爾的摩需要更多公共滑板場嗎?
Conner:就像先前提到哥本哈根所說的那樣,是一種公共空間的使用,同時也更公平地規劃公共空間和公園休憩場所發展。而且不是僅僅施力在巴爾的摩白人為主的社區(The White L),公部門將所有金錢和資源都集中在那裡;例如所有免費的公共交通運輸工具、自行車道和一般良好設施都在那些區域。我一直認為,要是能在在巴爾的摩西區的的正中央建造一座耗資五十萬美金的滑板場,從各方面來看都是好事。因此,我想滑板場是越多越好,能夠共享的公共空間也越多越好。
Surf:滑板場不見得要蓋得很大,可以是預算不高的小型板場,一樣能很好玩。投入於空間的設計上,不僅是以滑板為主,考慮其他受眾族群的需求也很重要。
Pat:如果以 Pigtown 社區的 Carroll 滑板公園為例子來看,巴爾的摩市府便是因為把建案交給一個很怪的承包商,蓋了一個很糟的板場。我時常聽人說很多發生在那裡的壞事,而板場本身是由水泥公司所建蓋,不是由滑板組織去經手。因此,建造滑板場也是讓滑板人能參與其中的一種方法。 一直到最近,巴爾的摩市府才意識到滑板場的固有的價值,對我而言實在有點扯,我曉得巴爾的摩作為一個城市來說,其發展比其他大城市慢得很多,他們居然花了這麼久的時間才意識到這一點。 但我也很開心,我們做的事獲得一定程度的認可。現在,他們討論要在Rash Field 及 Sandtown 建蓋滑板場,雖然是好事,不過也耗太久了。
Pat McQuade
Pat McQuade
你們希望大家(滑板人)如何使用和維護這樣的滑板場或空間? 你們認為巴爾的摩城市發展滑板文化最好的方法為何?
Surf:滑板最酷的事就是這一點,即使就建造滑板場而言,市政府甚至不需要真的付出太多心力。他們只需要讓人們去做他們會做的事,自然就會水到渠成。而且能找到很多方法去做,例如撥挪低預算來建造板場,以不同的方式去看待滑板文化才是重點。
Conner:但滑板以外的活動與規劃也很重要。因為我們若是回到文化的場所而論,在那裡發生的一切,像是 Stephanie Murdock (巴爾的摩滑板文化推廣者)前陣子在板場做的事就很酷。我覺得能好好坐下來談論現正發生的事及該如何解決滑板圈發生的問題是一件好事。即使不是所有人都參與這些對話,但我認為這仍是一個很好的先例。
Brad:我覺得有趣的是,滑板人能自在地漫遊於城市各個角落,並且以自己能用嶄新視角來看待城市,反轉其事物原本被建造的目的而感到自豪。但是一回到滑板場要讓他們以同樣開放的心態就很困難。公園方面,他們要擁有同樣開放的心態會比較困難。滑板公園的形成,造就了我們先前談論到的這種大男人主義文化,而這種空間就變得像是只為滑板人打造一樣。我們發現實際情況並非如此。
Brad:社區裡有很多人以及對這空間有興趣的族群想使用板場,無論是父母帶著孩子騎滑板車或是近來非常流行的溜冰運動都喜歡來板場。我認為我們必須對「一座滑板場是什麼樣子」保有開放的思維,消解「這裡只有滑板人能玩」的思維;將這裡視為「開放」空間可能是我們一直都沒思考到的原因。我覺得市府建蓋了滑板公園後,該社區的承擔的責任便是維持公園的日常使用。我們會確保這個板點是對所有人開放,而不僅僅是所謂只有滑板人能來的地方。
你們是如何在這至今仍由男性主導的滑板文化意識到性別平等的問題?
Pat:我們看到其他地方處理這問題而產生的結果。同時隨著我們年紀的增長,多少也成長了一點智慧,但我想很多人在這方面仍然不長智慧。而我們這群人對於性別平等都有相同的想法。
Brad:我們彼此認識多年,從中學畢業後就混在一起玩滑板,共同經歷一些事物,所以算是在共同成長的過程之下,對許多事發展出相似的心態。再者,我們全都四處拓展地各以不同方式參與巴爾的摩的藝術與音樂社群。因此,也與許多對滑板文化一無所知的人成為朋友,而他們告訴我們,滑板人都是混球而且很會挑釁別人。我們體會到他們對於滑板人給予他人的負面影響,巴爾的摩發生一些與當地滑板人有關的事件,也讓我們看到這樣的負面情況;不斷出現弱勢族群被打壓的情形,承受被滑板人挑釁的衝擊。在這種情況仍持續發生的局勢之下,我們只覺得這就是我們都需要承擔責任的緣由,因為我們打造了 Zika Farm 這樣的一個平台。即使我們覺得這只是一個有趣的小型 DIY 板點,大家還是會希望能在這地方獲得應有的尊重。因此,我們有責任讓大家都知道我們的立場與想法。
Conner:我同意。我們與 Vu(滑板店)Queer Skate Baltimore Carpet(在地滑板品牌)有一個共同的訊息群組,不僅用來傳達 Zika Farm 發展的狀況,同時也用來相傳整個巴爾的摩滑板場景的狀況。其中的一部分便是確保大家來玩板都友善相待,並且對玩滑板有信心。
Brad:參與其中的 Queer Skate Baltimore,是在地最大型的酷兒滑板組織,我認為他們確實樹立了性別平等的基調,並正在改變巴爾的摩的滑板語彙。面對許多情況,我們都跟隨他們的主導方式,並透過他們規劃的系列活動,分享他們的內容,或多或少地幫忙擴充他們的平台。我認為他們正在做的事情比我們做的事情更重要,因為我們只是一群男性滑板人;一群男性組成的直系滑板團體。所以,關於這方面的所有事情,我們都視他們為引導這議題的主要聲音。
你們對這 DIY 場地有任何願景嗎?這個場地有沒有完工的一天?
Conner:所有那些 DIY 的過程便是終點,所以其實沒有所謂終點。
Pat:絕對是沒有終點線。創造比摧毀容易得多,我們終究得把舊道具打掉,挪出空間做新的地形。就我們的發展方向來說,這地方也是一個多元用途的空間。現在一切東西都還在施工中,無法在這樣的情形下用來做太多事,但我們希望能辦表演,吸引滑板人以外的族群參與這地方。我認為那也是滑板以外的聲音與觀點能注入的關係,因為我們在這裡做的事不僅只有滑板而已。當我們第一次從 Red Bull 那裡獲得建蓋經費時,確實試著以長期規劃的方式進行,但並非只靠我們就能做到的事。這裡狀況時時都有變化;可能會有人來弄亂地形或道具,我們就必須對此有所處理。所以我們做的每一件事對於這受限的空間都是一種反動。
近年來很流行也時常被提起的「滑板人總以自身獨特的視角看待城市」,Zika Farm 裡所有這些各式各樣的地形與道具,對你們來說是否有任何意義?這些都是你們偏好的地形嗎?
Sean:我們蓋的所有東西都要經由 Tyler 來決定。
Surf:因為他最了解實際上要怎麼建造這些地形的架構。但我們通常都是互丟點子,然後大家對其中一些想法特別有動力去做,或是最常被提出來。不過最後都會以投票的方式來決定。
Brad Ziegler
Brad Ziegler
Brad:希望能打造一些有趣的東西,一些平常在板場裡玩不到的地形。而實際上,這裡的東西都不是專業土木工程出身的人所建造,所以會比在板場的地形更具挑戰性。例如那座混凝土賽道 J 台,玩起來感覺超怪,但我們真的覺得很有趣。我們就只是想蓋一些覺得獨特的東西。而且還必須有一個平台(四面台),大家都想玩平台,但我們就覺得蓋一個火山平台會很好玩。或是從其他 DIY 板點取得靈感,實際思考並弄清楚我們的能力所及範疇。我們的工頭分別是 Tyler 和 Josh,要蓋什麼東西都要經由他們許可,因為他們最了解木工的形式與架構。大多數其他人則負責勞動像是剷水泥之類的工作,以及提供各種想法,然後他們兩人會告訴我們實踐的可行性。
Tyler:我們只是從小在工具和手工製作東西的環境下長大,他們現在學的東西就和我們小時候學的東西一樣多。
Pat:我想補充 Josh 不只是我們的工頭,也是我們的「總監」,而且以民主方式執行所有事情。我們執行的結果至少都是過半數農民們的投票。我喜歡那種拚命丟想法出來的感覺,然後蓋的東西不是我一開始很感興趣的地形,但通常最後結果呈現出來都很讚。
Conner:大家都喜歡建造障礙物/地形其所代表的背後想法,但我覺得我們時常爭論不休或無法達成共識之處,都是一些小眉角。就拿火山平台來說,討論的要點會是「中間該不該蓋個篝火」、「哪裡該放烤肉架」、「篝火坑要蓋多大?」之類的這些問題得花好幾週的時間才決定。不是每次都這樣,但有時候真的會耗很久。就像現在,我們接下來可能會蓋一個長型的 J 台,一定會有很多小東西要討論,所有點子用講的聽起來都很棒,實際尺寸大小則有待商確。
Shane Mills, Frontside Disaster
Shane Mills, Frontside Disaster
結 語:
前身為 Tony Hawk 基金會,今年更名為 The Saktepark Project 的組織對於滑板公園發展原則為:每個社區都該有一座滑板場(A skatepark for every neighborhood)——適用於所有大小與人口密度的社區;滑板場只要好玩,便無關乎場地大小。更重要的是,其不分疆畫界、不分性別、種族與階級的友善氛圍才能真正展現向來引以自豪的開放滑板精神。倘若城市能有效利用土地與公共發展資源,抑制資本主義家的過度圈地與層層佔有,正視公共空間衍生的各種不尊重性別與種族差異問題而形成的族群分化,或許我們都能為浪費資源的問題共同盡一分力。誠如澳洲生態女性主義學家哈倫(Patsy Hallen)讚喻女科學家麥克林托克(Barbara McClintock)的研究理想所述:「我們在此擁抱世界,並非征服世界。

【打造與管理 Zika Farm 場地的成員】

工頭 Tyler Vinje、採買與預算評估的 Pat McQuade、企劃 Brad Ziegler、品質控管 Benny Kitzmiller、農民代表 Conner McIntyre、財務主管 Aaron Muchnick、安管 Aaron Botkins、場地維護 Dillion O’Maille、公關 Dave Eassa、「園藝雕塑」策劃 Ty McCoy、Sean Danaher、Josh Hampton、場外諮詢 Andrew Mick、場外監管 Nico Trevizo、攝影師 Jason M.、團隊管理 Jono,以及安全管理負責人 Grant Miller。
Pat McQuade
Pat McQuade

Coexisting with the Land through Skateboarding DIY : An Interview with Zika Farm -- A Utopia that Dissolves Boundaries, Gender, and Class.

They describe themselves as "Farmers", cultivating in the skateboarding world. Let's take a look at how and why these East Coast skateboarders in Baltimore created such challenging terrains.
Space is permeated with social relations: it is not only supported by social relations but is also producing and produced by social relations.” — Henri Lefebvre
Baltimore, Maryland’s historically racist urban planning policies are reflected by long-standing problems of unequal community development resources; from public recreational spaces to transportation systems, such investment is predominantly focused in white middle-class communities, which have accumulated structural advantages year after year, and which starkly contrast against the disadvantaged living environments of African-American communities. Such seemingly conscious geographically shapes are even dubbed the "White L" and the "Black Butterfly" on the city map. In addition to the problem of uneven community development resources, Baltimore’s population of more than 600,000 and 56 neighborhoods currently has no more than five skateparks. Speaking in terms of skateboarding development, it is perhaps owing to this disparity that the DIY vibe has been able to develop so vigorously.
Zika Farm
Zika Farm
From the hidden DIY skate spot in the Bell Foundry Art House, which was shut down in 2016, to the present Zika Farm, Baltimore has always been in a state of flow, whether it be indie art or skateboarding. And the potential of a multi-purposed space is alternately reproduced, transferred, and practiced from generation to generation. The rapid expansion of urban cities combined with the power of capital establishes networks and enclosures which homogenizes and consumes, effectuating the accumulation and decay of unused space. As a result, DIY has become a method of pushing back against spatial homogeneity and insatiable capitalism, and from which to practice spatial diversification independently. Perhaps we can say DIY skate spots are a kind of social-space revolution in response to urban modernization.
Assembled in Baltimore is a group of skaters who call themselves "Farmers", each with their own specialties, applying the Rousseau-way of enclosure and Steintbeck’s American farming spirit to a secluded urban space which they named Zika Farm. They use skateboarding as the basis and the medium, and adhere to Erich Fromm's humanistic spirit of "live and let live", creating a diverse space where everyone can feel friendly and welcome. Unrestricted by the old logic of ownership, they "appropriate" the space and imagine various skateboarding terrains on this small land, constantly creating new things within a limited space, and presenting the concept of a social space to encourage a great diversity of knowledge. The Farmers have transformed the space, a realization of what the French philosopher Lefebvre wrote: “An existing space may outlive its original purpose and the raison d'etre which determines its forms, functions, and structures; it may thus in a sense become vacant, and susceptible of being diverted, reappropriated and put to a use quite different from its initial one.
When did you start building Zika Farm, the DIY skateboarding venue? This place is actually a bit remote. How did you find this place and obtain the right(s) to use it?
Brad:I found this spot in 2016. I was on a bicycle looking for places to photograph. As I was biking along the train tracks, I saw this kind of semi-paved path up leading up a hill. I was just curious as to what was going on, and then discovered this paved utility road in the middle of the forest. It was fully covered with trash when I found it. We started moving the trash out, and we just started building here without asking for permission at first. Through the building process, we came to contact BGE, who's running the electrical utility, and then CSX who's the train security. We talked to them and found out their terms. BGE was okay with it so long as we didn’t build things in the center where they couldn't drive by. Everything we build has to be on the edges. CSX was okay as well, as long as we're mindful of crossing the train track with our cars, because it is a working train line. We don't have a full legal written permission, but we basically have a tacit permission from all governmental contractors involved. I think it's city land, and there's no private ownership.
Pat:Everyone who builds here comes from different backgrounds; Some people started this other DIY-- Shrimptown. A couple other guys, including myself, helped out at Bell Foundry. There was another one in South Baltimore called RRWWTF that got destroyed and fenced off. So Brad took me here, not too long after RRWWTF got shut down.I remember telling him that I didn't think it was going to work at all, because this place was just trashed out, and it’s a hard location to get to. I think we've hit our four year mark, and I'm glad that Brad was right, and I was wrong.
Josh Hampton
Josh Hampton
Pontus Alv said that “the DIY movement is more about people occupying and the place being illegal, so you are doing something criminal, which feels like you’re a bad guy-- this rebel punk feeling.” Do you consider this as being rebellious to you? What motivated you to build this DIY spot?
Conner:I don't speak for the crew. I feel like it has a certain level of rebelliousness, but I bet it's mostly more about fun. Because just as much as skating here is fun, I think everyone agrees that planning and building everything is just as fun. I think we're too old to be rebellious in that nature. I've been like building little ledges and stuff around in the county since I was a kid, having grown up there. In that case, I guess it's not for the purpose of being rebellious. That's not the intention, but perhaps a side effect because this is not supposed to be here, and it is.
Sean:I think this is a lot like when you're a kid and you want to build a tree house, but on a bigger scale. And the stakes are as well, so it is a little bit rebellious. But the motivation is to be building something with your friends for your community, more so than “sticking it to the authorities”. Any given day, this spot could get shut down, and that happens with DIY spots around the world. We kind of know that, but still we come every weekend or once a month to try to build something or invest in our spot.
Brad:What I think is great about spaces like this, speaking in terms of the rebellious aspect, is that historically in America we had this sort of great expanse of the West, and people moving out there, and the government saying you could just take what was yours, and anything you found was your land. Of course, we know that land was stolen from the people who originally lived there. But it's interesting because that doesn't happen anymore. There is a lot of space in America, but even though we have these big open spaces, it is mostly private land. Finding little slices like this, where there is a homeless encampment under the bridge, and which we have good relationships with; it's kind of a “live and let live” situation, those spaces in America are becoming less and less. There's less of an ability for people to take something that is unused and make it their own. We were supposed to be a country of bounty and plenty, and our country has failed on that promise, largely. I think privatization of public space is part of the problem. If it's rebellious, I feel like it's rebellious against that, which I'm proud of.
Zika Farm
Zika Farm
Do you think the spirit of it is kind of like “squatting”?
Brad:Yeah, it kind of is squatting. But I would also say it's useful. It's like putting to use. In The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck writes about how a fallow field is a sin to a hungry man [and the unused land a crime against the thin children]. You look at this, and this is our fallow field, which is a sin, if we just let it sit here; it was totally filled with trash and abandoned. Now many members of the community feel welcome here and feel like it's a space to express themselves. So in that sense, we're not hurting anybody.
Conner:When Brad and I went to TBS (Train Bank Spot) in Malmö, Sweden, and Denmark as well. I think one thing that I took away, that I really remarked upon, was how encouraged we were to just skate wherever we wanted to. People are just happy that you are using a space that is not used. If you were skating at a plaza here, you'd be asked to leave and maybe even get in criminal trouble. But if this was in Copenhagen, people would be like “yes, please use that”.
Pat:I will say it does feel a little bit rebellious, which to me is kind of liberating. Because we can come here and create what we want to see in the world. And in a sense, it's a reaction to the fact that there simply aren't enough skate parks in Baltimore City. So we can come here and literally create whatever we want to see and whatever we want to skate, which goes back to that liberating feeling.
Zika Farm
Zika Farm
Did you receive any grants or help from the city for building this DIY spot?
Pat:It's self funded. Everything we've pretty much done up to this point has been self funded. Some people in the community give us money. Like today, someone gave me ten bucks when they were leaving here, which is great. People don't have to do that, but it does go a long way. We've also been lucky that Red Bull has given us money in the past. Plus we sell shirts and have thrown shows to help fund the space.
Conner:Right now we're living in our best case scenario of no one caring, or just ignorance of the spot existing. And I guess [we’ll see what happens] after that, whether that's letting us do it; like there's a camera here watching us, or us having to pay like a lease on the land, which I've heard some spots having to do; or tearing it down and making a skatepark, which is what happened to Shrimptown, and it's not very good.
Brad:I think we would only try to go the legal-city-approved route if we were threatened to get shut down. I think at that point, we would pursue all means of getting the spot legitimized, but prior to that we're really comfortable with what it is.
Conner McIntyre
Conner McIntyre
Do you think the atmosphere is different between DIY and a public skatepark?
Brad:One thing I'm proud of, that we've done, has been really proactive in making this a welcoming space for everyone. I think that our local skate park has had recurring issues of skaters who are either questioning their gender identity, or are trans or gay and openly identify as such, who feel a sort of a macho aggressive energy in the skate park. So there's a lot of questions being raised about that. Whereas we've kind of gotten a little bit in front of that to say, we welcome everyone, regardless of who you are, and want to make this a trans friendly space, want to make this no matter your race or sexual orientation. We want this to be a space that people can come to and not feel that aggression and “cool guy nature”, it should be something that's very open to everybody.
Conner:I told someone the other day, about the difference between here and the skatepark. We are setting the culture of what happens here, because we were kind of in charge of this space. The skate parks have been around for a long time, but no one is really in charge and there's no accountability for what happens there. We have an Instagram page for Zika Farm where we can let everyone know what the culture is, what the vibe is, and how to act and how not to act, and what you can do to not be welcome here anymore.
How would you handle conflicts between skateboarders in Zika Farm?
Conner:We've made a post to be like, if something happens, please send us a direct message on Instagram so that we can know about it and take action.
Pat:We've had a lot of people come here and say the same thing about the skatepark that the tone is pretty machismo. Fortunately, we haven't had to deal with that. I think a lot of the people that are in opposition of what we believe don't even come here, because they know already where we stand on issues, and where we stand with them. I guess it's the good and bad thing about a skatepark, anyone can show up. Skateboarding has been a certain way for so long, now everyone is involved. Some people are used to the way it used to be and aren't as welcoming to new people that want to be involved in skateboarding.
I would like to use my personal experience for this question. A lot of male skaters seem to always approach women skaters as newcomers in the skatepark, and try to “coach” them how to skate properly, unsolicited. What are your thoughts on this phenomenon?
Pat:People love to play the seniority card and feel they take precedence because of it. But that's not the case. And they should probably humble themselves. A lot of times,many male skaters will give unsolicited advice to women skaters. I see it happen all the time. And I mean, I'd be pretty frustrated if I was trying something and I didn't ask for someone's advice. So, yeah, I understand where that frustration comes from.
By Dave Eassa
By Dave Eassa
What is the best way cities could approach skateboarding? Do you think Baltimore city needs more public skateparks?
Conner:Like what I said about Copenhagen earlier, it’s the use of public space, but also making public space and public recreation more equitable. It’s not just in “The White L" of Baltimore, where all the money and resources are concentrated, like all the free public transportation, bike lanes, and generally nice things. I've always tried to argue that if you were to build a half million dollar skatepark in the middle of West Baltimore, it would be very good for multiple reasons; the nicer the skatepark the better and the more positive results you're gonna see. So, I think the more skateparks, the better. And the more shared use of public space, the better.
Surf:A skate park doesn't have to be a huge endeavor either. They can be small and low budget and still be really fun. Designing Spaces intently to not just have skateboarding, but for other demographics is important too.
Pat:If we look at Carroll Skatepark in Pigtown as an example, Baltimore City got caught up with a sketchy contractor and built a really bad skatepark right down the street from here. I hear bad stories about that place all the time and it got built by a concrete contracting company, not a skateboarding organization. So building skateparks is one thing that gets skateboarders involved. The city of Baltimore did not see the intrinsic value in having skateparks until recently, which is insane to me. I know that we as a city move a lot slower than other major cities, but at the same time, it's crazy that it would take this long for them to see the value in what we do. But I'm glad, it's good that we're recognized to some degree. Now they're talking about Rash Field, and a park in Sandtown which is good and great, but it's taken forever.
Surf, Brad, and Conner
Surf, Brad, and Conner
How do you expect people (skaters) to use and maintain skateparks or spaces like this? What is the best way to develop skateboarding culture in this city?
Surf:That's one of the cool things about skateboarding, even as far as building skateparks, which is that the city doesn't even really need to do anything. They just need to let people do their thing, and things will pop up. You can find ways to do things like, building parks on a low budget. It’s about looking at it differently.
Conner:But also outside of actual skateboarding and trickery. Because if we're going back to the culture of the spot, and like things happening, then I thought, like what Stephanie Murdock did at the skatepark a couple weeks ago was really cool. I think that it's good to sit down and talk about what's going on and how we can fix problems within the skateboarding scene. Even if not everyone was there who needed to be part of the conversation. I think it's still a good precedent to set.
Brad:What I think is interesting is that skateboarders have no problem going around downtown and priding themselves on seeing the world in a new way and taking something and using it for a different purpose than it was built for. But they have a harder time, when it comes to skate parks, in having that same open minded mentality. The skate parks are built, and then there's this kind of macho culture we were talking about, there's this kind of sense of skateparks built for skaters, that's it. We're finding that is not the case.
Brad:Because multiple people and multiple interested groups in the community want to use it, whether it's a parent taking their little child on a scooter, or roller skates that are becoming very popular. I think that we have to apply that open minded mentality of what a skate park is, and take out the "it's only for skateboarding" mentality and see it as this space that could be for reasons that we haven't even thought of yet, but making it that open space. So I think that the responsibility of the community, after the city builds the parks, is to have that ongoing mission. We're gonna make sure this is for everyone, not just skateboarders in that sense.
How did you guys come to the realization of gender equity in this still male-dominated skateboarding culture?
Pat:Because we see how other places deal with it and the problems that arise as a result. As we get a little bit older, we get a little bit wiser and I think... a lot of people don't. I think we all have the same like-minded ideas on the matter.
Brad:We've all known each other for so many years, I think we've been skating together, in some cases, since middle school, so we've just all grown up together and developed similar mindsets. And we as a larger extension are all in some way involved in, sort of the arts, or the music community here in Baltimore. And so we're friends with a lot of the people who feel slighted about skateboarding, and have told us that skateboarders are douchebags and hyper aggressive and all of that. We see the impact and the pain that they feel and we've seen within ongoing events in Baltimore, involving skateboarders, there being a recurring theme of marginalized communities continually taking a hit and being the brunt of people's aggression. With that still ongoing, we just feel like that's how we all came to this idea that we need to take up the responsibility, because we have a platform here. Even if we think it's just like a fun little DIY spot for us, it is a platform that people look to and respect in some capacity. So we have a responsibility to let everyone know how we feel.
Conner:I agree. We have a direct-message chat group with Vu, Queer Skate Baltimore, and Carpet. It’s not just dictating what's going on at Zika Farm, but in the whole skate scene in Baltimore in general. Some part of that is making sure everyone is welcome, and feels encouraged to skate.
Brad:Queer Skate Baltimore, the other big organization that is involved, I think they are really helping to set a major tone and shifting Baltimore's skating discourse. So we followed their lead in many cases, and with the programming they've done, try to boost their platform and kind of share their content a little bit. What they're doing I think is more important than what we’re doing, because we are a bunch of guys; the immediate group is a bunch of guys. So we've kind of turned to them to be a voice and a guiding light in all of this.
Do you have any visions for what this DIY spot could be? Is there any finish line for this project?
Conner:The finish line is one of those things where the journey is the destination. There's no finish line.
Pat:There's definitely no finish line. It's easier to create than destroy, but eventually we'll have to destroy stuff and make way for new features. In terms of where we're going, this is totally a multipurpose space too. With everything going on right now, we can't utilize it that way, but in the future, we would still like to do shows, and to be able to bring other people in as well. I think that's where a lot of other voices and other perspectives come in, from everything else we've done here outside of just skateboarding. We tried to plan for the long term when we got money from Red Bull the first time, but that’s just not how we can go about it. Because things are always changing here; someone might come and mess some stuff up, and then we have to react to that. So everything we do is reactionary to the space that we're confined to.
This saying keeps appearing in recent years which is “skateboarders look at cities with their own unique perspective”. What do all these different forms and transitions (the layout) mean to you? Are they all your favorite things to skate?
Sean:We have to run everything by Tyler.
Surf:He knows the most about actually building these things. But I think ideas are just kind of tossed out and certain ideas will gather momentum and be brought up more often. Eventually it comes down to something like a vote.
Brad:I think we want to build interesting things that you can't skate at the skate park. Just the fact that they're made by non professionals, make them already more challenging than at the skatepark. For example, the path of the quarter pipe thing, which is a super weird thing to skate, but we think that's really fun. We just build stuff that we feel is unique. And you got to build a ledge, everybody wants a ledge, but we would have fun making a volcano. Or, getting inspiration from other DIY spots, and then really just trying to figure out what our own skill sets are. We have two foremen, Tyler and Josh, and we run everything by them, because they know the most about building wood forms. Most of us can shovel concrete all day and kind of have those ideas, but then they'll tell us what is actually practical.
Zika Farm
Zika Farm
Tyler:I think we just grew up around tools and more handywork, but they're learning it just as much as we learned it back then.
Pat:I would also like to say Josh isn't just our foreman, he's our president. We run a democracy here. Everything we do gets voted on by at least half the farmers. I like to sow the seeds. I've totally built things that I was not super hyped on, but in the end, it all turns out great.
Conner:Everyone likes the obstacle, like the idea behind the obstacle, but it's the little tiny things I feel we get into arguments over or can't agree on; like with the volcano, the argument was “should there be a fire pit in the middle”, “should they be a grill”, “where should the grill be”, and “how big should it be?” Each of those questions takes weeks to answer. Not all the time, but sometimes it can take weeks. Like now, the next thing we want to make is potentially a long quarter pipe, and there are going to be many little things to discuss, which will all sound great on paper. Size and shape is up for debate.
Epilogue:
Formerly known as the Tony Hawk Foundation and renamed The Skatepark Project this year, the organization's principle for the development of skateparks is: A skatepark for every neighborhood -applicable to communities of all sizes and population densities. As long as the skatepark is fun, it doesn't matter its size. More importantly, its friendly atmosphere, regardless of division, gender, race, and class, can truly highlight that open spirit which skateboarding has always been proud of. If cities can effectively use land and equitably execute resources for public development, curb excessive enclosing and layered occupation by capitalists; and face up to the disunion of social differentiation arising from the disrespect of gender and racial differences in public spaces, then perhaps we can all work together on the problem of resource waste, and, to quote Australian ecofeminist Patsy Hallen, "to embrace the world, not to conquer it."

About the Zika Farm team

Tyler Vinje (forman), Pat McQuade (shop Stuart/estimator), Brad Ziegler (project manager), Benny Kitzmiller (quality control), Conner McIntyre (union representative), Aaron Muchnick (chief financial officer ), Aaron Botkins (safety man), Dillion O’Maille (grounds keeper), Dave Eassa (public relations), Ty McCoy (“sculpture garden” curator), Sean Danaher, Josh Hampton, Andrew Mick (offsite consultation), Nico (offsiate superintendent), Jason M. (staff photographer), Jono (corporate), and Grant Miller (head of security)