“Psychogeography: a beginner’s guide. Unfold a street map of London, place a glass, rim down, anywhere on the map, and draw round its edge. Pick up the map, go out into the city, and walk the circle, keeping as close as you can to the curve. Record the experience as you go, in whatever medium you favour: film, photograph, manuscript, tape. Catch the textual run-off of the streets: the graffiti, the branded litter, the snatches of conversation. Cut for sign. Log the data-stream. Be alert to the happenstance of metaphors, watch for visual rhymes, coincidences, analogies, family resemblances, the changing moods of the street. Complete the circle, and the record ends. Walking makes for content; footage for footage”.
I. Reading the city
_ “there is no one narrative of a city, but many narratives construct cities in different ways highlighting some aspects and not others” (Bridge/Watson 2000). How we imagine the city will thus depend to a large extent on what our interest in the city is and what we want to know about it (King 2007).
_ the city as a collection of stories.
II. Maps and mapping
_ “Despite the common knowledge that the city is socially heterogeneous and an uneven space that is difficult to represent, it is often neutralized and reduced to a map” (Çinar/Bender 2007)
_ The map, and also the aerial photography, gives a description of the world as seen from above, and thus offers important knowledge about the dimensions, build-up and relationship between the city’s physical elements, such as streets, squares, parks, buildings etc. However, it does not capture the atmosphere of a place, and does not record the numerous stories which lie within the physical, tangible reality it describes.
III. Cognitive mapping and dérive
_ cognitive mapping
_ Dérives involve playful-constructive behaviour and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.” (Debord 1958). Through recording his aimless, dream-like walking through the streets of Paris, Debord made a series of “psycho-geographical” maps reflecting subjective perceptions of the everyday condition of the urban fabric. The resulting map was hence a cognitive one, rather than a mimetic description of the city (Corner 1999). The situationists, through this preference for a cognitive approach rather than a positivistic one, were making an attempt to return the map to the everyday (Corner 1996).
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
“Psychogeography is a practice that rediscovers the physical city through the moods and atmospheres that act upon the individual.
Perhaps the most prominent characteristic of psychogeography is the activity of walking. The act of walking is an urban affair, and in cities that are increasingly hostile to pedestrians, walking tends to become a subversive act.
The psychogeographer is a “non-scientific researcher” who encounters the urban landscape through aimless drifting, experiencing the effects of geographical settings ignored by city maps, and often documenting these processes using film, photography, script writing, or tape. In this way, the wanderer becomes alert to the metaphors, visual rhymes, coincidences, analogies, and changing moods of the street”.