Psycho Geography

“Unfold a street map of London, place a glass, rim down, anywhere on the map, and draw around its edge.  Pick up the map, go out into the city and walk the circle…. Record the experience as you go… Complete the circle and the record ends.  Walking makes for content, footage for footage”   (MacFarlane, 2005)

So, this week I have been reading about Psychogeography. It seems to be a term that has come to encompass a lot of meanings and practices for a diachronically and synchronically diverse number of cultural groups. Even in the beginning its early proponents perversely appeared to aim for a “pleasing vagueness” (Debord, 2006) of definition . Long story short,   it boils down to encouraging us to re-examine our lived experience of  the city by engaging with it in new and provocative ways. Which is cool and kind of fun – and , even better, legitimises wandering around (derive – ing)  my new home town, looking for adventure, as research. Which is all good.

The difficulty arises when we stop to consider the 1960’s Situationists almost playful call for art activist ‘detournements‘ through a more post-structuralist/postmodernist lens.

Situationist contemporaries Foucault, Derrida Sartre and Lacan have all posited varying degrees and mechanisms by which ‘the gaze’ of  ‘the other’,  one way and another, contributes to the formation and regulation of the self and society – something which, ironically but unsurprisingly, seems missing from the exclusively ‘male gaze’ (Mulvey 1975)  framed  discussions of Debord et al.  In addition, the Situationists, in approaching the city as a cultural discourse do not seem have an awareness of their own role in framing the reading of the text .  In Situationist Paris,  Roland Barthes’ dead author is alive and well and seemingly engaged in spectacular city planning and politics…

  • Debord, G. 2006. Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography. In Knabb, K. ed. Situationists International Anthology.UK. Bureau of Public Secrets, p5
  • MacFarlane, R. 2005. A Road of One’s Own. Times Literary Supplement, October 7th 2005.
  • Mulvey, L. 1975. Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. Screen. 16.3 Autumn 1975. pp 6 – 18