July 2024

Le Cercle

Text: Joseph Allen Shea Images: Benjamin Deberdt & Mark Gonzales

Le Cercle is the book I have always wanted to make but never knew it. It is the perfect conjoining of ideas and artistic practice, the works bridging time and space (the boards made in California, photographs taken in Paris and printed in Sydney then shipped to and from New York City for Mark to add his drawings. Finally the book was designed and printed in Sydney), marrying relationships young and old as well ideas that would not been conceived by one individual. It is the spin of a successful collaboration across several mediums. The unbroken ring that unites several ideas but only one conclusion.

I have been working with Mark Gonzales for four years but only last week shared coffee for the very first time. I met Benjamin Deberdt seven years ago and we became great friends but only last week realised our first art project together. After my return from Paris for the European launch of Le Cercle and the artworks inclusion in new Paris museum La Gaîté Lyrique, Benjamin and I spent some time over email trying to sum up what had happened.

Sydney – June 27, 2011/ 9.45PM Eastern Standard Time
Paris – June 27, 2011 / 1.45PM Central European Summer Time

Joseph Allen Shea: How and when did you first meet Mark Gonzales?

Benjamin Deberdt: I was thinking about it the other day… I first saw him skating the sundial spot in Paris, La Vague, with Ron Chatman, Stéphane Larance and Alex Wise. He was riding the first Blind board I had ever seen. And I’m guessing we actually met the first time I was in NYC, around 1995-6. I remember him setting up a one night exhibition at Aaron Rose’s apartment.

Mark Gonzales

JAS: How did the collaboration come about?

BD: Very spontaniously, I’d say. Mark came to Paris to film the Circle Board performance for an exhibition he had in mind for Franklin Parrasch Gallery, NYC. I organised for Ludovic Azémar to film it, and I tagged along to witness it, and to document it also, ’cause that’d be something you would not want to miss. Then, months later, you and I agreed that it’d be nice to put those photos out there, in some way. And Mark must have liked the idea as he did a wonderful job at making my photographs more interesting! Nothing was planned, really, and it just happened quite naturally.

Mark Gonzales

JAS: What is the circle board?

BD: It’s a very dangerous rolling device. Some people want you to believe it’s made of nine skateboards attached to form a wheel of sorts, but don’t believe them. There’s more to it!

Mark Gonzales

JAS: When watching Mark ride the circle board, how much do you see as skateboarding and how much do you see as art? Is there any reason to differentiate?

BD: I don’t really think about it like that. I know that just riding that thing is more than difficult; then manipulating it with such grace is a whole other thing! As for artistic value, doesn’t it come with the 500 page book you are supposed to put out with every art piece, nowadays? In that case, no, it just appears in front of you…

Mark Gonzales

JAS: Do you know much about the other skate performances Mark has done?

BD: I remember getting photos of the Mönchengladbach museum performance in an envelope sent by Cherryl Dunn. This is when I was running Sugar magazine. I did not quite get it until I saw the video a while later. Then, it all made sense, and it was so beautiful. To this day it may be one of the most inspiring documents of skateboarding. To me, at least!

Mark Gonzales

JAS: The works that make up the book have just opened in an exhibit at La Gaîté Lyrique in Paris. Can you explain the other works that were displayed alongside your work?

BD: Some of them, yes, some others I would not dare it! Let’s say that the exhibition does quite a good job at making you excited about skateboarding, wether you are a “lifer”, or if you’re just taking your eight-year-old kid there.

Mark Gonzales

JAS: How have the skate communities responded to the book? How have the art communities and/or general public responded?

BD: I dunno. What are the sales status!? My family really liked it!

Mark Gonzales

JAS: Can you tell us a little bit about you photographic background? Including how you got started?

BD: I’m coming from a tightly run and selective photographic school: The Thomas Campbell Visual Institute. It was hard to get in, and I still haven’t found my way out.

Mark Gonzales

JAS: How do you see the future of skateboarding publishing turning out?

BD: It could be grim, but as the major magazines seem very stale and absolutely sure of what “the kids” want and need, it feels more like local media is flourishing, adding excitement and relevance again. Perhaps this is the way forward. Do look up things like Grey in London, Dank in Oslo, Anzeige in Berlin or PWBC on the web. Paper doesn’t necessarily make you relevant!

Mark Gonzales

JAS: What’s the next print run for Benjamin Deberdt?

BD: My mémoirs! Or zines.

Mark Gonzales

JAS: Now that Mark has moved to France, how is he getting along as a Parisian?

BD: He has lived here before, a while back. I’m sure he’s doing just fine! What’s funny is that everybody you bump into, nowadays, mentions a Gonz sighting!

Mark Gonzales

JAS: Mark has become a sort of enigma or skate royalty. It was interesting to see how people reacted to him being in Paris. Why do think he’s gained such a reverence?

BD: I’d say, no matter what marketing plans try to tell us, we do not have many legends, especially those that transcend generations. Mark is one of the only ones. He in his own league, he also has a natural stature that commands respect. Thinking about that exhibition way back, in NYC, I clearly remember him explaining to Steven Cales, nonetheless, that he could walk any neighborhood, and nothing would happen to him, claiming: “It’s in my eyes!” I’m not making that up…

Mark Gonzales

JAS: Isn’t skateboarding just for kids?

BD: I’m sure kids would love us to leave them alone with our EMB fantasies and Brooklyn Banks stories!

Mark GonzalesMark Gonzales

Le Cercle, printed by Blood & Thunder, is available now in limited run through Izrock Pressings.

P.A.M Store, Izrock Pressings and The Blackmail invite you to the Sydney launch of Le Circle, with a display of prints and projected works from the book and refreshments provided by Grolsch.

Thursday July 14, 6-8pm
P.A.M Store
20 Burton St
Darlinghurst, Sydney

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