“The people who design the streets in Hong Kong ignore the need for seating areas, so people in the neighborhood put some furniture they don’t need to good use”
Everything is designed according to a standard formula that doesn’t take into account the unique qualities of a given area. But in traditional urban fabric, “the configuration of space was developed gradually by people through time,” she says. “It allows [people in] the neighbourhood to express the way they want the space to be.”
One thing the pair noticed when studying abandoned furniture was the type of person who uses it: old. With the notable exception of teenagers, says Chan, young people just don’t engage with the city in the same way. “Maybe they like staying at home because they pay all their salary towards it,” she says. “I’m like an old guy — I like to take a newspaper or some food and enjoy the wind and air.”
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