Vladimir Film Festival

Olly Todd – Out for Air

23 / 9 / 2022 / Talk

A Hello! towards the col­lec­tion of Olly’s poems by Filip Tenšek

I remem­ber see­ing Olly Todd on screen for the first time some­time in the middle of the 2000s while I was still a teen­ager and think­ing to myself that this guy looks like a poet and, surely, as it was­n’t a very edu­cated mind upon which this impres­sion was made, the com­bin­a­tion of trapeze cor­duroy pants, a nice jack­et and a scarf – or is it just a phant­asm, per­haps, which I’ve con­jured since – were enough to put me in a state of weird day­dream­ing, and this is only loosely related, sort of like when he does a nol­lie bs 270 on a bank that’s pos­sibly in Par­is, on which his former team­mate and quasi-boss, Jason Lee, would later 360 flip and kick­flip to fakie, Agent Jason Lee in Way Out East!, the hero of All Girl Sum­mer Fun Band’s hit song Jason Lee – and the band, I assure you, in the best way pos­sible, sound exactly as you think they would – in which he, Jason Lee is kick­flip­ping in the dreams of the lyr­ic­al I, give it a listen, it’s really catchy and non-pre­ten­tious, so I was day­dream­ing not really in a romantic way, but in terms of some ima­gined ref­er­ences or by falsely inter­pret­ing oth­ers’ decisions which were, at least for me, quite effect­ive while being very odd for that time in skate­board­ing, like that trick for example, nol­lie bs 270 on a bank or later a fakie ollie on a bank to 50 – 50 on a rail in Stat­ic III, and not to sound exclus­ively creepy by say­ing that I was day­dream­ing, I was also almost auto­mat­ic­ally plot­ting scen­ari­os – which would con­tam­in­ate and inter­fere with his skat­ing, mostly in a good way – almost every time I’d watch his pri­or or future appear­ances in skate videos, and by those I mean scen­ari­os in which, because he’d always seem as if he were on his way to do a chore some­where in the city and as if the filmer would by chance run into him and film his trick which, also, suited the spot quite nicely, this guy Olly Todd who looks like a poet would in those scen­ari­os which turn into parts and vice versa, like the char­ac­ter of the Doc­tor in László Krasz­nahork­ai’s nov­el Satant­ango, he would then cre­ate a whole sys­tem of optim­al move­ments and he’d put things in their final places so as to be able to keep his life in per­fect motion in case he’d one day lose his memory, but I was only draw­ing lit­er­ary ref­er­ences now, so even if I was­n’t exactly think­ing all that back then, as it is merely an asso­ci­ation which I would later fab­ric­ate and put in rela­tion to my earli­er impres­sions, I could even then sense both spon­taneity induced by some fas­cin­a­tions with cer­tain urb­an set­tings, city ele­ments, maybe even ambi­ent­al and sens­ory qual­it­ies of spaces and a feel­ing of someone being on a per­son­al pro­ject of sorts, in the sim­il­ar man­ner in which, not for the very far fetched and sus­pect pur­pose of this long sen­tence, but because I would later feel it as well in his book of poems, Out for Air, poetry does­n’t have to be con­vin­cing in its rela­tion to truth, you know, but only to lan­guage by using its mater­i­al, that’s the case, although I would have liked it more if it was enough to silently exclam­ate YES with­in one­self while swal­low­ing it from the intim­acy of the space of the page which then folds some­where in your meta­phor­ic­al gut, and if it’s really good poetry, whatever that may mean, really good for you I mean, then your real gut as well, where you can cel­eb­rate the moment or the situ­ation — and I think that the word situ­ation is quite fit­ting in ref­er­ence to the Situ­ation­ist Inter­na­tion­al, because Todd’s poet­ic­al motions, like those con­jured up in The Fuel, for instance: Any but the one where speed­ing car / wing mir­rors brush / T‑shirt sleeves or in Entonox: no attri­tion for our cupidin­ous fear / or the soles of our shoes, not the merest stroke of fric­tion, they aren’t that unlike to dérives, psy­cho­geo­graph­ic­al spa­tial explor­a­tions which open up non-inten­tion­al situ­ations — yes, moments which he cre­ated on the page, the ones loc­ated between the author, the sol­it­ary toil and his memor­ies or thoughts of, for example, San Fran­cisco, New York, the early Girl team in Low Tops or how he spent the day pad­ded up / skat­ing vert alone / at a leis­ure centre named Gos­hen in Leav­ing Gos­hen, per­haps to think about the con­stel­la­tion of the poet­ic voice in gen­er­al is to stare into Las Men­i­nas by Velasquez, in which he weaved a whole web of rela­tions and per­spect­ives which make us think about the fra­gile and unstable pos­i­tion of the one that’s really watch­ing, prompt­ing us to turn our atten­tion towards the pro­cess of set­ting up the scene, a place where the poet­ic exper­i­ence can take place, like in Now, in which the voice is writ­ing stand­ing up, / invert­ing the aster­oid split / that clouds the open clouds. and approaches the calm, or rather forces us to really see it togeth­er with him, to break the win­dows with some­thing, or takes us on a stroll which makes the con­tem­por­ary flâneur of The Cool cry: we must think out, up — / which clouds are above / you now? In what state / will I have seen them / if it all?, describ­ing the mean­der­ing thoughts pro­voked by build­ings and house­hold items while also bring­ing about the poten­tial for the sec­u­lar spir­itu­al­ity of urb­an ter­rains to hap­pen, for instance in The Air­craft in the Space Below the Plane, in which air­crafts, heli­copters and light craft moved like slow, black per­for­ated lasers. / This was at least for lasers slow, black and per­for­ated. / For any­thing else it was faster, whiter and more whole than any­thing., and in doing so Todd’s poet­ic voice can be quite ser­i­ous as he often uses sym­bol­ist images, but without mak­ing it a fever-dream­ish exper­i­ence which can often hap­pen with poetry which stems from cryptic, obscure mod­ern­ist tra­di­tion, not that its place is exactly there, but some­where in the gen­er­al vicin­ity of its form­al qual­it­ies and styl­ist­ic ele­ments, going fur­ther by being more intim­ate and com­pel­ling in mak­ing famil­i­ar images unfa­mil­i­ar, espe­cially to the skaters’ milieu, and being incred­ibly inter­est­ing in motion-craft­ing, Olly Todd, that guy who looks like a poet, there is noth­ing more to be said.