Wednesday, March 02, 2005

When the Situationist International reinvigorated the old Lettrist technique of ‘psychogeography’ it is unlikely they could have imagined, or indeed approved of the developments now taking place around the world. Numerous artists, academics, ‘urban explorers’, political activists and scientists are in the process of redefining Guy Debord’s original definition of "the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals”, [An introduction to a critique of urban geography, 1955.] in favour of a more adaptable, playful and sometimes even depoliticised mode. Debord and his comrades did of course worry about the ‘recuperation’ of their radicalism, but the impact of information technology understandably escaped them. Although they would certainly have spotted the descent of their radical critique into mere pleasure-seeking (see ‘urban exploration’) as the aforementioned recuperation, they could perhaps not quibble too much with recent uses of a tool designed to deconstruct the all-powerful ‘Spectacle’.
Psy.Geo.Conflux 2004 took place at Participant Inc in New York’s Lower East Side from the 13th through to the 16th of May. Dedicated to ‘current artistic and social investigations in psychogeography,’ it was the second time that the members of Glowlab (http://glowlab.blogs.com/) had organised this ‘potlatch’ aimed at the ‘study of the effects of the geographical environment on the emotions and behaviour of individuals.’ In amongst a rather over familiar roster of cartography-related experiments/works there was more than a sprinkling of tech-enabled wandering using mobile phones, radio transmitters, recording technology & c. The seduction of the psychogeographical method was apparent, as well as the difficulty in producing outcomes that don’t ape the original techniques of the Situationists. One of the most successful interventions was the ‘Life/Theatre Project’ where people gathered outside the gallery space and observed the street, with the promise of some ‘actors’ playing the part of ordinary people wandering by. The end result was a heightened sense of the ‘theatre’ of the everyday, and plenty of bemused New Yorkers wondering why they were being applauded by a bunch of strangers. The Situationist’s will be squirming in their collective grave at this bourgeois recuperation of their methodology. (Just kidding.) Although there were some aspects of the festival that struck me as being ill-conceived much of it was genuinely trying to tackle the perceived threat to freedom of thought that beige consumerism represents. [to be continued…]
“Here then is the pattern in my carpet, the sense of eternal mysteries, the eternal beauty hidden beneath the crust of common and commonplace things; hidden and yet burning and glowing continually if you care to look with purged eyes.”

Arthur Machen ‘The London Adventure’ (1924)

“The world is a cypher, he does best who hints most closely at the secret message latent in the signs exhibited to us.”

Arthur Machen

“Dreaming with your eyes open.”


“What’s the point of having a map if you already know the way?”

Stanley Brouwn

“Our life is no dream; but it ought to become one, and perhaps will.”


“We are closer to things invisible than to things visible.”

George MacDonald

“Hop aboard and lets take to the skies!”

Soundtrack to a kids helicopter ride. Glasgow Airport.

“Doubt as a treatment for the disorder of certainty.”

Carsten Holler

“To change life we must first change space.”

Henri Lefebvre

“The artist is a map-maker…poetry is a place.”

William Burroughs

Thought I'd better put something on this blog. So here are some random quotes.

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