Video Review: Devin Szydlowski - Welcome PRIME Scootering

Video Review: Devin Szydlowski - Welcome PRIME Scootering

Heming Luo |

As a mode of individual expression, the act of scootering is itself ideally situated to reflect the personalities, insights and eccentricities of its actors. Scootering is what those who perform its pantomime serve to offer through their very performance, an indication of how they interpret their surroundings and, in an even deeper sense, an artful communication of who they are. Yet, this opportunity too often falls markedly underutilized in the standard scooter production, an unfortunately unsurprising testament to entrenched disconnects between actor, audience and performance, of expression and reception. There is a foundational void in the way that scootering, by virtue of its mere existence, begs to be represented, and the way in which it actually has been in the interest of fulfilling demand for familiar, comfortable and, indeed, complicit content ordinarity. For the divergent among us, though, this film represents the unabashed exception.

Devin Szydlowski is the iconoclast. This film: a challenge not only to the ways in which scootering is performed, but also the ways in which it is depicted, scrutinized and eventually understood. This video is a subversion of aesthetic conformity to the nth degree: the soundtrack, the trick and spot selection, the clothing—each represent a rebellious angst, a breakage from normative constructions of how, what and where one ought to ride. It is a clear yet thoroughly complex attempt at reinvention, one which offers provokingly conscious commentary on creativity, deliberation and raw ability, and which leads the resistance against the mainstreamization of the presented activity. It is, in short, manifest counterculturalism.

To say that Devin’s riding is progressive is to radically undervalue and underplay the formative role it plays in the evolution of modern scooter riding and culture. Frankly, there is no one else doing what he does, as he does and as often as he does it. From the perspective of tricks alone, this video is a triumphant uncovering of new ground. Two-seventy whipping off a storage container into a near-vertical gradient. Front board 270ing the upper edge of a full-sized auto-trailer. Fakie nose manualing hubbas. These tricks aren’t just difficult—they’re avant-garde, aptly descriptive of the new heights to which the contemporary scooter rider may hope to ascend. All this, of course, does not even invite discussions of the fakie wallie fullcab, the bump-to-bar to roof-ride, the components of a line performed separately before eventually being strung together and further expanded upon. Devin’s tricks represent individualism in the most honest usage of such terminology. He does what he himself—and perhaps himself alone—is capable of conceiving of and ushering into existence by virtue of his own unique outlook and substantial personal ability.

Tricks aside, this video resists archetypes of scooter productions through its form as well, namely in the way in which it seems to genuinely and intimately interact with the viewer. Though the unorthodox soundtrack creates an unusual, even eerie aura throughout the duration of the video part, the mood changes dramatically around the four-minute mark, in the aftermath of the switch front hurricane down Clipper. This point created for me a kind of visceral experience that fundamentally reoriented how I saw what was playing in front of me. I no longer wanted just to watch, but to be a part of the action. And, in truth, I began to feel like I was. As the music escalates in its pacing and the tricks become progressively gnarlier—at least in their own distinct respects—I felt as a viewer an authentic transformation from passive observer to active participant in the events unfolding on-screen. I wasn’t there, and I hadn’t been there, but somehow I felt inexplicably as if I had. I was struck in an odd trance of perceptual omniscience, as if I really did attend the live performance of these maneuvers, and for that reason knew what was to come next. This didn’t detract from the growing excitement; rather, it amplified it. This continued to build steadily until the recognition of what I somehow knew would be the final spot—Rincon—and the final trick—a 540. I so assuredly knew that the 540 was coming without prior knowledge that it was, and somehow this made it even more special, even more exciting, as if the trick itself had not been spoiled but was a figment of my faintest imagination coming to life in front of me. It was surreal, fantastical, dreamlike, even, something I had certainly never experienced before.

The viscerality of this preliminary viewing may not have been shared by you—nor even me in the times that I have watched since—but still it speaks to the difference in creative and evocative intentionality with which this video was created. Whether you were entranced, as I was, or simply supremely entertained, this video offers something different, a separation from the prosaic consistency of old and a contemplation of what can conceivably be created with new. This film should challenge you to reflect upon your ideas, perceptions and preconceived notions concerning the creation of video parts and encourage you to consider the alternative. Counterculturalism invariably spreads. 

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