Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Framing of Parkour

by Elyse Inamine

The banlieue, photographed by JR

Elyse Inamine writes in "Euro-American coverage of banlieue subculture, in particular the framing of parkour from 2005 to 2009," current stigma, only encouraged by les √©meutes de 2005, has risen in French culture and even the global society with widespread news documentation and commentary. However, the parkour subculture arises as the new face of the banlieues. A spokeperson for Parkour-Spot.com, an online international community dedicated to creating a parkour database, noted in an email interview, “it is possible that parkour has needed the suburbs to born: the lack of freedom, to escape the constraints of the habitat, various structures for training and a diverse population and sources of inspirations.”

Parkour is “ultimately a communion with one’s habitat, in goal of exploring how one’s body is shaped by the political geography of the modern city.” Visually, it is leaping from building to building, scaling walls, and seeming to defy gravity. However, within this movement, there is a philosophy and a way of life to this subculture. Using Dick Hebdige’s Subculture: The Meaning of Style, the parkour subculture transforms the commodities of the urban landscape – the streets as dictated by Haussmann’s grids – into a mode a self-expression.

Today, parkour has emerged from the periphery of the banlieues to the realm of media, commercialism, and popular culture as seen in the 2002 Nike Presto campaign, "Le Poulet en Colere," and a 2002 BBC commercial. However, following Karl Marx in “The Fetishism of Commodities and The Secret Thereof,” parkour is thus manipulated by this mythic value which “converts every product into a social hieroglyphic.”

But as seen in The Office, parkour is more than a product – it is a spectacle. In The Society of the Spectacle, Guy Debord defines the spectacle as “simultaneously [presenting] society as itself, as part of society, and as a means of unification…it is a social relation between people that is mediated by images.” In a sense, The Office presents itself as the mediator between the parkour subculture and the audience.

By using media, pakour has acted as the subcultural mediator between the banlieues and the universal public. However, it leaves one to wonder if this universalization of parkour has lead to its global demise as the true parkour has been diluted into the commodified, spectacular parkour.

1 comment:

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