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Psychogeography

Psychogeography

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Psychogeography

valoraciones:
3/5 (36 valoraciones)
Longitud:
137 páginas
2 horas
Editorial:
Publicado:
1 oct 2010
ISBN:
9781842438701
Formato:
Libro

Descripción

The term "psychogeography" is used to illustrate a bewildering array of ideas, from ley lines and the occult to urban walking and political radicalismwhere does it come from and what exactly does it mean?   Psychogeography is the point where psychology and geography meet in assessing the emotional and behavioral impact of urban space. The relationship between a city and its inhabitants is measured firstly through an imaginative and literary response, secondly on foot through walking the city. This creates a tradition of the writer as walker and has both a literary and a political component. This guide examines the origins of psychogeography in the Situationist Movement of the 1950s, exploring the theoretical background and its political applications as well as the work of early practitioners such as Guy Debord and Raoul Vaneigem. Elsewhere, psychogeographic ideas continue to find retrospective validation in much earlier traditions from the visionary writing of William Blake and Thomas De Quincey to the rise of the flâneur on the streets of 19th century Paris and on through the avant-garde experimentation of the Surrealists. These precursors are discussed here alongside their modern counterparts, for today these ideas hold greater currency than ever through the popularity of writers and filmmakers such as Iain Sinclair and Peter Ackroyd, Stewart Home and Patrick Keiller. This guide offers both an explanation and definition of the terms involved, an analysis of the key figures and their work, and practical information on psychogeographical groups and organizations.
Editorial:
Publicado:
1 oct 2010
ISBN:
9781842438701
Formato:
Libro

Sobre el autor

Merlin Coverley is the author of seven books: London Writing, Psychogeography, Occult London, Utopia, The Art of Wandering, South and Hauntology. He lives in London


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Psychogeography - Merlin Coverley

Psychogeography. Increasingly this term is used to illustrate a bewildering array of ideas from ley lines and the occult, to urban walking and political radicalism. But where does it come from and what exactly does it mean?

Psychogeography is the point where psychology and geography meet in assessing the emotional and behavioural impact of urban space. The relationship between a city and its inhabitants is measured in two ways - firstly through an imaginative and literary response, secondly on foot through walking the city. PG creates a tradition of the writer as walker and has both a literary and a political component.

This book examines the origins of Psychogeography in the Situationist Movement of the 1950s, exploring the theoretical background and its political applications as well as the work of early practitioners such as Guy Debord and Raoul Vaneigem. Elsewhere, psychogeographic ideas continue to find retrospective validation in much earlier traditions from the visionary writing of William Blake and Thomas De Quincey to the rise of the flâneur on the streets of 19th century Paris and on through the avant-garde experimentation of the Surrealists. These precursors to Psychogeography are discussed here alongside their modern counterparts, for today these ideas hold greater currency than ever through the popularity of writers and filmmakers such as Iain Sinclair and Peter Ackroyd, Stewart Home and Patrick Keiller.

From Urban Wandering to the Society of the Spectacle, from the Dérive to Détournement, Psychogeography provides us with new ways of apprehending our surroundings, transforming the familiar streets of our everyday experience into something new and unexpected. This guide conducts the reader through this process, offering both an explanation and definition of the terms involved, an analysis of the key figures and their work as well as practical information on Psychogeographical groups and organisations

Merlin Coverley is a writer and bookseller. He is the author of Pocket Essentials on Utopia, London Writing, Psychogeography, Occult London and The Art of Wandering.

POCKET ESSENTIALS

Other titles in this series by the same author

London Writing

Occult London

Utopia

To Catherine

Contents

Introduction

1:  London and the Visionary Tradition

Daniel Defoe and the Re-Imagining of London; William Blake and the Visionary Tradition; Thomas de Quincey and the Origins of the Urban Wanderer; Robert Louis Stevenson and the Urban Gothic; Arthur Machen and the Art of Wandering; Alfred Watkins and the Theory of Ley Lines

2:  Paris and the Rise of the Flâneur

Poe, Baudelaire and the Man of the Crowd; Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project; Robinson and the Mental Traveller; Psychogeography & Surrealism

3:  Guy Debord and the Situationist International

The Pre-Situationist Movements; The Situationist International (1957–1972); Walking the City with Michel de Certeau

4:  Psychogeography Today

JG Ballard and the Death of Affect; Iain Sinclair and the Rebranding of Psychogeography; Peter Ackroyd and the New Antiquarianism; Stewart Home and the London Psychogeographical Association; Patrick Keiller and the Return of Robinson

Psychogeographical Groups,

Organisations and Websites

Bibliography & Further Reading

Introduction

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.

Robert MacFarlane, A Road of One’s Own.¹

Psychogeography. A term that has become strangely familiar – strange because, despite the frequency of its usage, no one seems quite able to pin down exactly what it means or where it comes from. The names are familiar too: Guy Debord and the Situationists, Iain Sinclair and Peter Ackroyd, Stewart Home and Will Self. Are they all involved? And if so, in what? Are we talking about a predominantly literary movement or a political strategy, a series of new age ideas or a set of avant-garde practices? The answer, of course, is that psychogeography is all of these things, resisting definition through a shifting series of interwoven themes and constantly being reshaped by its practitioners.

The origins of the term are less obscure and can be traced back to Paris in the 1950s and the Lettrist Group, a forerunner of the Situationist International. Under the stewardship of Guy Debord, psychogeography became a tool in an attempt to transform urban life, first for aesthetic purposes but later for increasingly political ends. Debord’s oft-repeated ‘definition’ of psychogeography describes ‘The study of the specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals.’² And in broad terms, psychogeography is, as the name suggests, the point at which psychology and geography collide, a means of exploring the behavioural impact of urban place. And yet this term is, according to Debord, one with a ‘pleasing vagueness’³. This is just as well, because, since his day, the term has become so widely appropriated and has been used in support of such a bewildering array of ideas that it has lost much of its original significance.

Debord was fiercely protective of his brainchild and dismissive of attempts to establish psychogeography within the context of earlier explorations of the city. But psychogeography has resisted its containment within a particular time and place. In escaping the stifling orthodoxy of Debord’s situationist dogma, it has found both a revival of interest today and retrospective validation in traditions that pre-date Debord’s official conception by several centuries.

In a book of this size, one must inevitably offer an introduction and an overview rather than an exhaustive analysis and those seeking a meticulous examination of psychogeographical ideas within the strict confines of Debord’s schema are likely to be disappointed. I will be discussing the origins and theoretical underpinning of the term but, to my mind, of far greater interest than this often rather sterile debate, is an examination of the literary tradition that psychogeographical ideas have since engendered and out of which they can clearly be shown to have originated. Through this, I have broadened the scope of the book to include separate but allied ideas. So urban wandering will be discussed here alongside the figure of the mental traveller, the flâneur and the stalker. The rigorous and scientific approach of the Situationists will be offset by the playful and subjective methods of the Surrealists. Key figures from the psychogeographical revival, such as Iain Sinclair and Stewart Home, will be preceded by their often unacknowledged forebears, from Blake and de Quincey to Baudelaire and Benjamin. For psychogeography may usefully be viewed less as the product of a particular time and place than as the meeting point of a number of ideas and traditions with interwoven histories. In large part, this history of ideas is also a tale of two cities, London and Paris. Today, psychogeographical groups and organisations (many of whom are listed in an appendix to this book) operate worldwide but the themes with which this book is concerned rarely stray beyond these two locations.

The reason why psychogeography often seems so nebulous and resistant to definition is that today it appears to harbour within it such a welter of seemingly unrelated elements, and yet amongst this mélange of ideas, events and identities, a number of predominant characteristics can be recognised. The first and most prominent of these is the activity of walking. The wanderer, the stroller, the flâneur and the stalker – the names may change, but from the nocturnal expeditions of de Quincey to the surrealist wanderings of Breton and Aragon, from the situationist dérive to the heroic treks of Iain Sinclair, the act of walking is ever present in this account. This act of walking is an urban affair and in cities that are increasingly hostile to the pedestrian, it inevitably becomes an act of subversion. Walking is seen as contrary to the spirit of the modern city with its promotion of swift circulation and the street-level gaze that walking requires allows one to challenge the official representation of the city by cutting across established routes and exploring those marginal and forgotten areas often overlooked by the city’s inhabitants. In this way the act of walking becomes bound up with psychogeography’s characteristic political opposition to authority, a radicalism that is confined not only to the protests of 1960s Paris but also to the spirit of dissent that animated both Defoe and Blake, as well as the vocal criticism of London governance to be found in the work of contemporary London psychogeographers such as Stewart Home and Iain Sinclair.

Alongside the act of walking and this spirit of political radicalism, psychogeography also demonstrates a playful sense of provocation and trickery. With roots in the avant-garde activities of the Dadaists and Surrealists, psychogeography and its practitioners provide a history of ironic humour that is often a welcome counterbalance to the portentousness of some its more jargon-heavy proclamations. If psychogeography is to be understood in literal terms as the point where psychology and geography intersect, then one of its further characteristics may be identified in the search for new ways of apprehending our urban environment. Psychogeography seeks to overcome the processes of ‘banalisation’ by which the everyday experience of our surroundings becomes one of drab monotony. The writers and works that will be discussed here all share a perception

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  • (4/5)
    Reading Iain Sinclair and books like London Incognita made me interested in this subject in general, so when I saw this volume in a London used book store (not used, but selling for less than half-price), I snapped it up. It isn't the most scintillating of reads, but it does provide a good introduction to the various aspects of psychogeography and its related subjects. It is a bit dated--2010--but otherwise mentions the usual cast of suspects from Defoe to the present. It serves an an excellent entry point to further exploration, and the list of references in the back is still helpful.
  • (1/5)
    Psychogeography by Merlin Coverley I really looked forward to reading this book as I had come across references to the concept of psychogeography in books by other authors, most noticeably in London - The Biography by Peter Ackroyd.

    It could be defined like this: The effects of the geographical environment, whether consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.

    Basically the idea is that certain geographical areas attract certain kinds of human behaviour. Interesting stuff huh?

    Imagine my disappointment when I read this:"This book examines the origins of psychogeography in the Situationist Movement of the 1950s, exploring the theoretical background and its political applications as well as the work of early practitioners such as Guy Debord and Raoul Vaneigem."

    And so it was, each chapter was like an intellectual dissertation intended for obscure abstract journals that one may find in university libraries. Overall it was more like a thesis than a book. It was dry, unimaginative and boring.

    If I had any interest in this subject before I picked up this book I sure as hell am wary of it now.
  • (4/5)
    A really good little guide and introduction to the pseudo-science ( or is it an art form?) of psychogeography. Dr Coverley has produced a readable guide with plenty of references that tempt you to look further. He flecks it with little spots of mildly cynical humour that keeps everything in perspective. When I put it down I was immediately tempted to pick up my notebook, pencil and camera and go for an aimless wander around the city seeing and recording whatever turned up or whatever caught my eye.
  • (4/5)
    This book got off to a slow start and I worried that the author may have left out too much in the effort to conform to the 'essentials' format. But the second half of the book contains some pricelessly funny judgements of an intellectual movement that, despite having promise, had a hard time getting off the ground because most of the main proponents were, well, nuts. The idea that cities have secret organic properties that transcend time and influence the behaviour of their occupants is one that I find extremely compelling, though I'd want to put it on more of a scientific basis than a mystical one. This book also made me want to read JG Ballard and Peter Ackroyd's Hawksmoor.