Where's The Love? The Disposable Age of BMX

Stuart Fenton talks of fickle times in BMX and dreams of a VHS resurrection

17 Feb 2015

BMX videos vhs

Words By Stuart Fenton

When I started buying BMX videos (before the internet was a huge and integral part of our very existence) I’d get approximately two or three a year. Like legions of other riders I’d buy one and then absolutely rinse it. And when I say rinse it, I mean absolutely batter it.

My consumption back then was a scientific process; Examining and obsessing over the cover artwork, dissecting the list of riders on the back, rifling through the free stickers, examining the artwork on the VHS and then, the best bit, which was the video itself. The highlights for me were the little personality points that made the video unique like the intro music, little nuances in the filming or moments in the background of the clip that no-body else would have noticed. After a week of intense viewing it was possible to recount the entire video trick for trick, song for song, spot to spot. It was complete fetishisation and it bred a deep emotional investment in that particular video. What I liked most about videos back then were that they were a snapshot of an era and a weird relic of BMX at that time. It’s difficult to get a true snapshot when it’s all about four minute clips viewed in quick succession. 

Lets fast forward 10 years where last week I watched approximately 20 web edits, all of which were great fun and featured exceptional, space age riding. But I’m not rinsing these videos like the old stuff. I watch an edit two or three times and then I’m off viewing the next thing. By the time I’ve done that, the video I watched in the first place is pretty much forgotten. Its possible to get bored in the middle of a video simply because the viewer can. I believe that the accessibility and choice we have at our disposal has created a passive attitude towards BMX content because the deep emotional investment is no longer really there anymore.

It’s is a wider cultural issue that also effects music and Hollywood. People can buy just one song off an album and watch blockbuster after blockbuster without even going to the cinema. In 2015 there is no limit or a need to make choices and BMX is no different.

If we have a choice between more or less we will all almost always choose more. It’s human nature because we are wired to consume more, even if the result is zero engagement. What’s concerning is that as humans we appreciate what we have little of, and what we have in abundance, we view as disposable.

The recently released BACO: Push It To 11 documentary highlights many of the differences between ‘then’ and ‘now’ and is the antithesis of disposable. This particular documentary on the fabled BACO series perfectly demonstrates the BMX lifestyle that existed during the 90’s and early 2000’s. There’s insane riding, tons of laughter, joking, nudity, daft pranks and stupid outfits. It is the focus on the lifestyle as opposed to cutting edge riding that makes it so fun to watch. It is this sense of realness that makes the documentary art of the highest order. The BACO videos were loved and held in the highest regard because of their personality, character and unique nature. In 2014 a majority of the content we view works hard to do a job, whether that be promote a brand or a specific product, where as BACO was all about having fun and filming it. It is a fantastic documentary because it highlights the love held for the series and tells the story of a group of fellas that love their 20 inch bicycles being silly. We don’t really get that silliness these days. And you know what? I really miss it because riding BMX is silly and daft and we should never forget it. Watch it now because they really don’t make documentary’s about any old thing.

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The current situation is not anyones fault, it’s just the way the world has evolved. It just saddens me that we’ve become fickle viewers who cannot stop clicking on to the next link like brainless dribbling dogs. Just think about the porn addict who’s ‘cracking out’ seven a day without even the slightest feeling of euphoria. Ok, that comparison is slightly dramatic but you get my point.

BACO for example was made for enjoyment by a gang that enjoyed themselves. This is important because we can’t forget that content is made for enjoyment and not just for viewing. Based in the knowledge that nothing lasts forever, I have hope that something will change but I just can’t figure out what that change will be and what it will mean. Recent physical releases like Holy Fit and The Finer Things are example of positivity but maybe we should simply resurrect the VHS and see what happens? No buffering. No problems. 

"After a week of intense viewing it was possible to recount the entire video trick for trick, song for song, spot to spot. It was complete fetishisation and it bred a deep emotional investment in that particular video."

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