interview : guillaume le goff
photos : dr. ari marcopoulos
Originally printed in Desillusion #32
Born in Amsterdam in 1957, Ari Marcopoulos moved to New York in 1979 with an irresistible desire to become a part of the art and music scene, which was then in full swing. Starting his career alongside Andy Warhol, John Cage or Keith Haring, it was in the 80s, and especially the 90s that he became known to our generation. His photographs, publications and works with the Beastie Boys, Sonic Youth, Mark Gonzales, Harmony Korine, and Harold Hunter or with snowboard legend Terje Haakonsen went down in history, raising this intriguing personality to the rank of one of the most major documenters of contemporary culture. At the same time, he was shooting personal work on his family and friends, or on youth, but Ari Marcopolous has always stayed connected to creative forces. It was therefore almost natural that after deciding to collaborate with the brand Nike, he spent part of the summer with a 35mm shooting different spots and the New York surf community.
This true celebration of East Coast surfing is soberly titled « Dark Sun », and is a brand new experience that Ari talks about here with passion.
How was the Dark Sun project started?
It was started over lunch with julien cahn who works for nike here in new york city. he had expressed interest in working with me for a while so since there was a big pro surf contest coming up at the start of september in new york, he asked me to give my impression of surfing in new york. We talked about different approaches but in the end we settled on just sticking with my approach, not trying to force anything.
We know you for your work in fields like skateboarding, snowboarding and of course music and art, amongst others. when you were approached for this project, what were your relationships, feelings and links to surf culture?
Well i know a lot of people that surf and have bobbed around on a surfboard myself, i mean, it is really difficult surfing – I can tell you that much. i have watched a lot of 70s surf films, like crystal voyager, which is an amazing film. it really expresses the passion and pursuit of a lifestyle and activity.
How did you produce this report, what was the story you had in mind and how did it reach it’s conclusion?
I am mainly interested in finding things out on my own so i didnt go the pro surf way.
I appreciate and admire the surfers on the pro tour, they are amazing athletes and have passion for what they do, but i wanted to just head for the beach and find my way. I had help from my friend charlie smith, who happens to be a great surfer and also works as a film and photo project producer. so that was perfect. he was my guide and kept an eye on the swells for me. But really we just went out there even if the conditions were not perfect. The east coast does not have the surf one finds on the west coast. So we had a few good days out there and a bunch of bad surf days but people still go out and have fun in the water. We had limited time because we had a deadline for the presentation at nike stadium on the bowery in new york. So we hung out and spent some nice days out there.
What did you learn – about surf, people and life – during this project?
I am not sure if i learned, or if it confirmed with me what i already know. But i certainly met a lot of new people and made some new friends. i guess i learned that surfers spend a lot of time talking about the conditions and how the conditions were always epic yesterday but not today. They spend a lot of time looking at the ocean and a lot of time hoping and guessing for that one epic day when everything falls into place. I learned that there are a lot of cool people here in the new york area that surf.
Why did you call it « dark sun »?
I think i called it dark sun because new york is not the mecca of surfing, it takes a lot for it to be a good day. it’s not like some reef break that goes off often. So instead of a sunny day when all is good, i called it dark sun, since you spend more time waiting here…
How and what was/is it showed to the public? was you happy with the final result and people’s reaction?
We did an installation at nike stadium. It was tricky because there were these skate ramps in there, not flat walls, but we used large xeroxes and had a set of framed traditional prints. I was happy with how it turned out and i think people liked it, i mean i just make what i make, in the end the reaction is what it is going to be. the night of the event was really well attended, it was pretty much a mob scene, and people seemed to enjoy the work