About the photo book by Tadej Vaukman, entitled Dick Skinners; released by Rostfrei Publishing (Ljubljana, 2015)
If you want to see some gruesome pictures you shall open the book Dick Skinners by Tadej Vaukman and you will find images of pissing, vomiting, excessive drinking, explicit shitting, loads of boobs and penises, numerous wild parties, scenes from the emergency unit of the hospital, some toilet interiors, countless beer bottles, wine canisters and buckets with undefined contents; there are (I guess punk) concerts, private parties, elements of (seemingly joyful) violence and some into-your-face sexual activities. And there is free-style skating. The photographs are dotted in a very dense order. There are many, maybe even too many, spread across two hundred pages, that display everyday life of the artist and his fellow we-don’t-give-a-fuckers.
But what does all this apparent nihilism mean? Why showing pictures of (for the majority of people still) pretty unconventional lifestyles and bizarre actions to the wider public? What is the aim of the artist? To be subversive or just to tell a story of his immediate surroundings? Frankly, it is hard to tell, so I will only assume. Vaukman is active protagonist of so called underground skate scene which stands in the opposition to dominant skate culture that has been predominantly branded and commercialised in the past twenty years. Twenty years ago, in my high school days, skaters were usually rich and spoiled kids who could afford expensive gear. But these guys don’t fall for that. They look and act like proper rebels. But do they have a cause?
I would argue that yes. They do have a cause. However, that cause might not be properly articulated in academic terms, it is not very politicised and not clearly reflected. What the artist and his guys are trying to tell the world is that they don’t give a shit about anything; about conventions, about expectations, about living what is considered to be a normal life. They seem to be modern nomads who travel with minimum funds and the citizens who refuse to work for money. And one could say that in the current economic system, where most of (young) people live from hand to mouth and work to barely pay their living costs, work does not pay. It simply does not pay off the input. So they don’t work, they don’t buy (as much as possible), and they don’t pay rents but rather squat properties. They are a proper scum of today’s consumer society. With a cause!
In a way the trashed guys from the photographs are also escapists; since escapism is not only a romantic retreat from hustle and bustle of ordinary (urban) life but could also be a very potent political statement. Moreover, escapism is often the final instance of rebellion. When people grasp that there is no point struggling, when they are completely disillusioned and apathetic, then they retreat in their own intimate resistance. And this is the substance of these images: complete refusal to live a normal life according to imposed social norms. Therefore I would never compare Vaukman to photographers and artists such as Larry Clark or Dash Snow (for the latter he claims to be his point of reference). One is too old, the other was too wealthy.
There is a photograph that obviously remind on Larry Clark’s Tulsa series; Clark’s man who is laying in bed apparently wounded by a bullet is reminiscent of Vaukman’s similarly bearded guy with painful facial expression who is getting tattooed. However, it seems Clark has been slightly distanced from his subjects as his aim seemed to be to shock the society while Vaukman only says “this is what we do”. Furthermore, he does not have a need to be spectacular and some of his pictures are actually pretty benign.
On the other hand it is also inexpedient to compare him to Dash Snow, a pretentious rich kid who always thought of himself as an artist with ingenuous ideas and actions. Whatever he did has turned to art (with significant market value). However, Vaukman does not see himself as ingenious artist. His goal seems to be, above all, freedom of life as he identifies with the ideas of post-modern subcultures which are much more inclusive and less dogmatic than twenty years ago. The photographs thus seem to show the world view of a person who does not give a shit, who is poor and marginal and who is aware of the fact that he will never get rich and dominant. So why even trying? And nevertheless, why would one even wish for that?
© Miha Colner, 17. 7. 2015