A New Way of Walking

Just what is psychogeography, in a nutshell? “Break it down into its two parts,” she says. “It’s the psychological and the geographical. It’s about how we’re affected by being in certain places — architecture, weather, who you’re with — it’s just a general sense of excitement about a place.”

“When you remake your environment, or find wonderful things in it,” he says, “it breaks you out of the machine” Dave Mandl

The word psychogeography was coined in the late 1950s by the letterists and the situationists — French artists and social theorists who adopted the playful-serious agenda of the dadaists and surrealists in an effort to break through the crust of postwar conformity. But modern psychogeographers are equally influenced by earlier strains of urban adventure, including the 19th-century concept of the flaneur, the idle man-about-town who observed and commented on the urban scene. The most flaneur-like style of psychogeography, of course, is algorithmic walking — that “first right, second left” approach.

Our consciousness of what was important and unimportant, beautiful and dull, in a small town had been completely altered. Our psyches had a new relationship with geography.

by Joseph Hart

July / August 2004

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