CULTURE KLASH: Subterranean Innovation

By on September 20, 2016

Contour’s art events celebrate feats that rose from a different place and time.

From a vinyl brunch and tintype photography to the world premiere of Foothills: The Unlinked Heritage of Snowboarding, Contour Fest’s arts programming was created with locals in mind. (Photo bottom left: Wrkshrt, Photo right: Lindsay Ross)

From a vinyl brunch and tintype photography to the world premiere of Foothills: The Unlinked Heritage of Snowboarding, Contour Fest’s arts programming was created with locals in mind. (Photo bottom left: Wrkshrt, Photo right: Lindsay Ross)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – In a culture where innovation and obsolescence can happen in the blink of an eye, this year’s Contour Music and Art Festival, September 23 to 25, is an opportunity to appreciate pioneering technologies and people in music, photography and snow sports.

First up on Saturday author Robert Cocuzzo signs copies of his book, Tracking the Wild Coomba: The Life of Legendary Skier Doug Coombs. The book takes readers on a trip through Coombs’ adventurous life. Hailed as one of the greatest ski mountaineers, Coombs lived in Jackson in the early 1990s, inspiring mountain athletes across the globe. He died in a skiing accident in France in 2006. Jimmy Chin calls the book, “An insightful look at the life of a legend.”

Festival co-founder Jeff Stein says Contour brings people together around interests tuned to Jackson’s adventurous milieu. “Contour was founded on the basis of creating access to offerings unavailable in our remote corner of the world,” he explained.

Concurrently with the Wild Coomba book signing, Contour has booked tintype photographer Lindsay Ross to offer private photography sessions. She’ll snap on Sunday too.

The wet plate collodion process Ross uses casts an eerie, 19th century sobriety. Eyes take on a mystical glow, evoking the bygone era of spiritualism. Stripped of color and artifice, subjects appear lingering in a moment, the way one would standing at the top of a mountain with a board in hand, or in front of an old record player transfixed by a voice.

“Lindsay creates images that are timeless and moving,” Stein said.

If tintype photographs are any indication, Jackson is eager to embrace the good old days of arts innovation. And festival co-founder Matt Donovan will be there to greet them with an armload of LPs. In Donovan’s opinion, listening to music via the internet is underwhelming. “The most fascinating part is that only a fraction of people realize that. And a fraction of that fraction actually care.”

Donovan is doing his part to revive what he calls the supremacy of vinyl. During one of the festival’s art events, the Jackson Hole Stillworks Vinyl Brunch on Sunday welcomes buyers and sellers to trade vinyl or display their favorite album covers, while sipping Bloody Marys made with local vodka.

“The brunch is a way to bring vinyl enthusiasts together to buy and swap records, as well as an opportunity to share the beauty of album art,” Stein said.

The vinyl resurgence heavily touted in the mainstream press shows that people want better sound quality, Donovan said. “There’s a realization that there is a way to have a full sonic experience with high quality audio, and it’s actually happening with what a decade ago was considered a dead medium.”

According to the Recording Industry Association of America, sales of vinyl records were up 32 percent in 2015, the highest since 1988. Vinyl introduces sensibilities beyond exemplary sound, too. “The album art side is an element of the vinyl musical experience that is something lost on many people or that they’ve never had a chance to see,” Stein said.

When the audio is combined with the visual, Donovan says listeners add in their own imagination and “can be transported anywhere by the combination of the first two factors.”

Also on Sunday, at 1 p.m. at the Center, Contour presents the world premiere of Foothills: The Unlinked Heritage of Snowboarding by WRKSHRT. This 2015 documentary film took Patagonia athlete Alex Yoder and Nick Russell to the small logging community of Petran in the Kaçkar mountains of Turkey. Natives of Petran have been snowboarding for 400 years on primitive planks of wood that bear little resemblance to today’s snowboards. Called “Petranboarding,” the sport involves a toboggan size board minus its rails, plus a thin cord attached to the front.

The board is also known as Uzmetatasi, Black Sea dialect for “a plank that slides and floats.”

Turkey’s rich snowboarding history eclipses what we know of snowboaring in the U.S. Snowboarding in the states reportedly dates back to 1965 when Sherman Poppen, an enterprising dad in Michigan, fastened two cheap skis together and called it a “Snurfer.” The Poppen’s backyard hill reportedly became the first shredding site in the country.

In Turkey, Yoder was told that the sport got its start when a Muslim boy was told by his father to wash his wooden prayer mat in the snow. The boy started sliding, and a new kind of fun was invented.

Russell, Yoder and WRKSHRT illuminate Turkey’s contribution to boardsport history. “There is so much cultural beauty to these old traditions,” Yoder said. “It’s just simple. In the West we are flooded with technological advancement, which can make things complicated in a lot of ways.”

Yoder said that Petranboarding is not about finesse or style. Instead, the focus is on pure fun. “I’m excited to show this film [here],” he said. “Jackson is such an extreme place and there can be an aggressive energy to snowboarding. Maybe we could slow down a bit and enjoy this breath.”

Contour Festival’s arts events that peruse inventions from decades past may make us wonder: why are we so quick to discard old modalities just because something new comes along? PJH

All events are at Center for the Arts. For a full schedule, go here

For info on Contour’s music events:

MUSIC BOX: In the Name of Authenticity

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About Meg Daly

Meg Daly is a freelance writer and arts instigator. She grew up in Jackson in the 1970s and 80s, when there were fewer fences, but less culture. Follow Meg on Twitter @MegDaly1

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