Skip to content

dear suburbia reviewed, by steve shearer.

or how I learned to stop hating and learnt to love the artifice of beautiful commerce.

Written by Steve Shearer.

Like many others around the world I luxuriated in the 24hr free premiere of Dear Suburbia, or Queer Suburbia as some online wags quickly tagged it, not without justification.

It took me some time to realise that I wasn’t watching the movie but advertisements associated with it’s sponsors and this is maybe the most significant feature of this gorgeous film. Finally, Capitalism and Art have been blended in a seamless coherent whole. The distinction between content, meaning and commerce has become invisible: personality becomes brand, the perfect trojan horse to mind fuck youth under the guise of anti-suburbia.

The complete and final victory of style over substance.

And thats Dane Reynolds, our favourite surf star rebel as numero uno “branding” app. It’s got to wake you up at night don’t it Dane: this yawning chasm between the myth and the reality. A well paid clothes horse and peddler of sugary legal speed.

Like all other surf films of the modern Era the brown man of the third world is treated like an exotic warm visual prop. Maintained at a safe distance from the well paid and flighty talent but used regularly to provide emotional ballast to weight the unrelenting parade of air reverses. Cutaway fodder for white hipster fantasies, like the slums, tenements and ramshackle buildings.

Who’ll be the first surf film-maker to bridge the yawning chasm between the white world of surf consumption and the third world which it plunders for visual treasure? There’s a stink about the way this business is conducted.

Moving right along film freaks

– no harm in identifying the species or grinding the gears- late model capitalism will struggle on bravely for a while yet. It was sometime during the second half of the film when I realised I was falling in love. My critical faculties were being dulled by the finest surf soundtrack since Morning of the Earth and something Dane did on a head high right in the Ments blew my tiny mind into pieces. I don’t have the nomenclature to hand, some honest toiler will only dispute the name but it planted a tiny seed of an idea which sprouted into a luxuriant and unruly mind plant of it’s own.

Yes, the androgynous  hipster models and faux-surreal set pieces were a slight distraction, but that was offset by the delicious schadenfreude of imagining the circle jerk when the proof of concept was first floated. You can imagine the quivering hand downing a macchiato before the installation concept was worshipped with a chorus of self-congratulatory yeewws and whoots. No harm done and in the digital download era, easy enough to fast forwards through. There’s always the chance too, of a deeper meaning hidden in the “art” direction. We can live with the audacity of hope.

No, it was in spite of that. Norman Mailer spoke of the singular genius of Hemingway being his mastery of creating a mood. At least I think it was him. No amount of google searching will reveal the quote so it’s possible I made that up completely. No matter. It was the mood, pure and simple which began to beguile me and soften my hard heart. Landscape, portrait and action began to mesh perfectly with expansive music.

Fuckers got me; my last critical thought stabbed impotently before melting into the overwhelming mood of something like mental bliss.

It was Dane and John John in Japan. Not the disinterested Dane from Modern Collective, or the sweet and tender hooligan of a declining Pro Tour which dared to dream on the back of his talents, but a harder more confident surfer operating at the peak of his powers. The absurdity of a man being paid to go surfing remains at it’s apotheosis in the career of Dane Reynolds but here finally was proof that Dane, if not in the process of becoming the hardest working man in showbiz was at least prepared to put the sizzle on the steak when the cameras were rolling.

But wasn’t there something else happening in those gaping rivermouth typhoon tuberides? Despite the ironic fact that Japan had noiselessly and without epitaph slipped off the Pro Tour radar wasn’t this generation defining sequence in fact heralding in the new template of Pro surfing? Is it not true that these two supreme talents were offering a contemporary analogue of the great AI/Slater battles?

The contests we will never see under the current format due to Dane’s withdrawal from competition. This was the World Title, unofficial to be sure, but undeniable nonetheless. The two best surfers in the world going full tilt in surf of size and perfection.

I’ve got no doubt the Japan sequences are the best surfing ever captured on film. Bring the fucking noise on if you disagree: Martin Potter in Strange Desires, Occy in Pump, Andy Irons in Campaign 2, Slater at Soup Bowls in Sipping Jetstreams…..they all rate a mention but Dane and John John Florence blow all that has come before it out of the water.

I can’t really remember what happened after that. But the atmospherics of the closing sequences set to Brian Eno and Joy Division were sublime. This is a far superior film to Modern Collective and Lost Atlas even if it’s heart is black and it’s pretence galls.  We are all struggling in the web of commerce, preyed upon by bloodthirsty spiders, remote and empty as suburbia, voyeur and parasites on a culture that once existed free from the stain of the market. Yes.  It’s over now. And it has been for quite some time. Nothing will bring it back, not Billabong folding, not Rip Curl getting sold down the river. In this post-commercial landscape our Queer Suburbanites wander the globe like Ironic Gods, unsure only of their omnipotence.

PS …

Dear Kai, Brazil exists and it’s coming to kick your arse.

Dear Surburbia, a film by Kai Neville was premiered Sept 12 at The Beach Hotel Bondi.

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. davo's liver #

    If you’d really “learnt to love the artifice of beautiful commerce” you would have paid full price for the vid. I am well versed in said artifice, I passed on watching free. Those arsewipes gotta eat too.

    September 20, 2012
  2. “We are all struggling in the web of commerce, preyed upon by bloodthirsty spiders, remote and empty as suburbia, voyeur and parasites on a culture that once existed free from the stain of the market. Yes. It’s over now. And it has been for quite some time. Nothing will bring it back, not Billabong folding, not Rip Curl getting sold down the river. In this post-commercial landscape our Queer Suburbanites wander the globe like Ironic Gods, unsure only of their omnipotence.”

    Papa is spinning in his grave, HST is loading his pistol for another crack, and I’m out the back looping the rope over the branch.

    September 21, 2012
    • hope it isn’t a mango, this will be a good year

      September 21, 2012
    • sjh #

      These few words arranged so well evoked so well in me the entire essence of the article nice work StivB

      wander the globe like Ironic Gods, unsure only of their omnipotence.”

      September 22, 2012
  3. Yeah, lots of fertiliser will do that.

    September 21, 2012
  4. The Roller #

    Dear Stiv,

    Nice piece.

    Now, similar to how say, Dewey Weber did not ride hollowed up plywood “doors”… Or Bob Slater did not ride the same crafts as Gerry Moped… Daynolds is not about to paddle nor peddle the same sleds as those who rode before him.

    Same as it ever was.

    As to this art vs commerce meme…. Commerce has been at the doors forever.

    Way back in the days, Fine artists used to be simple craftsmen, of relatively low social status, who worked for those who could afford to pay them for decorative, nonutilitarian luxury baubles; namely, the rich.

    Only in relatively recent times did a myth emerge of the artist as some sort of tortured Prometheus, braving Olympian disapproval to bring the fire of wisdom and meaning to the huddled masses. But even then, and even now, fine art only exists at the sufferance of people with so much surplus wealth they can afford to throw it away on rotting shark carcasses and gilded sculptures of Michael Jackson with his chimpster.

    And the common folk and bourgeoisie have always wanted a little taste of artistic glory too. Even if it was no more that a poorly registered print of the Mona Lisa on a postcards.

    Note that even museums have been selling reproductions of the works of dead artists for decades. Whom does this benefit? Certainly not Leonardo da Vinci or Vincent van Gogh.

    I fail to see how say, the endless reproduction by museums, as well as the likes of purely commercial enterprises of artistic masterpieces on postcards, cheap prints, coffee cups, neckties, and tote bags has done anything to cheapen the content or import of artists far more talented that Dane Reynolds. Do we value Botticelli or Bernini any less because their works have been reproduced on jigsaw puzzles? Of course not.

    For surely the value of great art is in an important way orthogonal to the socioeconomic matrix in which it is produced and experienced. It cannot be tamed in the form of consumer goods. Likewise, kitsch cannot demean or degrade the message of Hamlet or the beauty of van Gogh’s irises. Kitsch can only demean and degrade bad or mediocre art, of which we will always have more than enough. Some bad art itself takes the form and essence of kitsch, like the immensely popular images of LeRoy Nieman or Thomas Kinkade.

    Popularity does not mean art is great, or lasting, or meaningful, but neither does popularity signal great art’s death knell.

    If Daynolds art really has something meaningful to say, I am sure it will withstand a few beer cozzies, personalized traction pads, or Neck Beard Dumpster Diver signature boards lying around the upwardly mobile living rooms of San Clemente. Hooligan Beach. Byron Bay. Or Ballina proper.

    September 22, 2012
  5. sjh #

    it will last as long as it takes for some so called stylist from a surf label to rip it off and turn it into pulp

    September 22, 2012
  6. steve shearer #

    Great, late mango flowering here. Any up your place Pete?

    You might be right Roller but it’s all too late now. I’ve learnt to love it….pass me one of them beer cozzies, I’m thirsty.

    September 22, 2012
    • it was the Eno track that turned you wasn’t it Steve .. (k)now which one ?

      September 22, 2012
    • The Roller #


      You are correct sir. Art IS commerce. Commerce is art.

      Don’t forget the ever so artfully marketed…. Siggie pants.

      I’m with you. totally.

      Embrace the Horror.

      September 23, 2012
  7. Tim #

    Excuse my ignorance and lack of desire to read the above. In another forum a person by the title of buzzy put forward an excellent summation of slater and somewhat of his legacy. I stare oft into images of him on his wizard sleeve and the like however do not like his current demeanour or complacency of what he has become. I also do not like those that adhere to his regime. Parko why the fukc didnt you hassle the shit out of him and show him up have faith in yourself you are just a great a surfer as hehehe is

    October 8, 2012
  8. Dan Burke #

    Trailer doesn’t show much. Certainly doesn’t tease me to buy it. I always enjoyed The Outsiders coverage of ASP events and miss the angle, but in terms of reviews what I want is – did you like it?, and if you did, do you like the same stuff in a surf vid i do? Coz I like your writing and you like the film it probably means we have similar tastes. So i’d like the film, but only enough to try and win a copy. What I like in a film is seeing the mechanics of a break from before take-off. How it lines up and the surfers position themselves. Not into high speed edits of one manouvre without context or setup. Good music helps too , which this film obviously has.

    November 23, 2012

go ahead

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: