Posts Tagged 'psychogeography'

Unselected readings

Megan Hicks

Thursday 29th April, 2010, from 10am-12pm

Bon Marche Studio (Bldg. 3, Lvl. 1, Rm. 105)

Presentation: 20mins

As a committed reader of roads, sidewalks and parking lots, I am always on the lookout for pavement inscriptions wherever I happen to be. I now have a large collection of photographs from which I can select examples to make points about city living and the use of public spaces.

But what if I didn’t exercise choice? What if I took a dérive, a drift, a wander in the manner of psychogeographers? If I started on an unsignificant day, at an arbitrary spot, and took an arbitrary route, and walked until I couldn’t go any further? And if I photographed every picture, sign and scribble on the pavement along the way? Would a coherent story unfold? Would an unsuspected narrative be discovered? Or would that series of inscriptions reveal nothing particularly special at all? There is only one way to find out. I propose to undertake this literary experiment and offer the results as a slide show at Open Fields.

The idea to conduct this experiment was inspired by Bradley L. Garrett, an ethnographer of urban exploration in the department of Social and Cultural Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London:
… many people are using psychogeographic techniques to navigate city space in new and interesting ways all the time, such as walking the city using algorithms, applying random models to a (supposedly) fixed template, replacing one arbitrary motivation (I am walking to work) with another one (I am walking 4 streets North, 2 streets East and 1 street North until I can’t walk anymore) … I think that geography has a lot to learn from psychogeography, both in terms of its historical trajectory and in terms of modern practice …

On 16 April Megan took an experimental drift through Surry Hills in Sydney.  A 5-minute compilation of this first set of Unselected Readings can be viewed here.

Megan Hicks is undertaking a postgraduate research project at Macquarie University based on her photographs of pavement inscriptions in urban and rural areas. Her blog site is Pavement Graffiti. Megan was formerly a curator at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney and now works as a curatorial consultant.


Proposal for a psychogeographical iPhone app.

Aden Rolfe

Thursday 29th April, from 1pm-3pm

Bon Marche Studio (UTS Bldg. 3, Lvl. 1, Rm. 105)

Presentation, 20 mins.
‘We were walking into an area that wanted to disguise its true identity, deflect attention from its hot core.’
Iain Sinclair, London Orbital, p56, Granta Books, London 2002

A psychogeographical iPhone app is simple to envisage. As a build on a basic map program that utilises the GPS in the phone, a number of options for lateral cartography emerge. First and most obviously, the ability to plot dérives using actual maps, and uploading a variety of information to instruct or record these drifts – photos, sketches, scribblings. Another function would be to overlay maps of other cities or suburbs on your location, a favoured technique of the Situationists. Where the app extends this practice is by allowing one to follow and record their progress through the superimposed territory, using GPS, as well as the actual territory. If wandering by chance, the GPS can record one’s route without the walker needing to do so. Removing oneself from this process in the present creates a self more reactive to the environment than reflective on the passage.

Thus, such an application could facilitate the rediscovery of unfamiliarity within places one knows well, or as an alternative way to initially discover new cities, suburbs, streets, districts. But this is secondary to such an application’s more interesting possibilities: the recording of local histories, mythologies and social geographies.

A writer such as Sinclair is revelatory in his links between social history and psychogeography. Place yields story after fact after rumour, providing endless avenues for exploring the hidden and forgotten tales that are embedded in the terrain. His limitation, when received outside of London, is the reader’s limitation. Characters, places, landmarks are less familiar or entirely strange, the links weaker, the exposures less poignant. Australia could use a Sinclair of its own. In lieu of, or perhaps better than, such a person, an interactive psychogeographical program, allowing users to upload information linked to place, news stories pinpointed to coordinates, could open up the urban landscape to the kind of engagement and narrative-gathering that Sinclair propounds.

This would be a visual presentation of the hypothetical application, requiring a digital or overhead projector. It would fall on the longer side of 10-15min or shorter side of 20-30min, schedule permitting. In style, it would be somewhere between a software presentation and a poetics of local history, tying in some of the social histories we already have, such as Paul Carter’s Road to Botany Bay and the mini-series Blue Murder.

Aden Rolfe is a Melbourne-based writer, curator and radiomaker whose work includes poetry, collage and cultural studies. His writing has appeared in Overland, Cutwater and Best Australian Poetry 2009, and he was commended for the Judith Wright Poetry Prize, 2009. He has had radioplays and sound collages broadcast on ABC Radio National, and formerly wrote for theatre and webcomics. Aden is currently Co-Director of the Critical Animals Creative Research Symposium.

A two day forum of creative research, experimentation and practice held from April 28-30 at the University of Technology, Sydney, and Serial Space Gallery, Chippendale.

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