Friday, 31 August 2012

Psychogeography: Part1

So what is psychogeography? I first came across the term when reading Ian Sinclair some years ago, but the Writing Britain exhibition at the British Library gave the term some further temporal contextualisation, in terms of British traditions of landscape writing, rural as well as urban. (Try to have a look at “Writing Britain, Wastelands to Wonderlands” by Christina Hardyment, published by the British Library.) Two books by Merlin Coverley were especially helpful in this regard and I would heartily recommend “The Art of Wandering, The Writer as Walker” and “Psychogeography” to anyone. Indeed, the following synopsis owes a lot to Mr. Coverley: so, once more, what is pyschogeography?
The school of thought and activity is usually associated with the Paris Situationists, or the 19th century flaneur, or Thomas de Quincey, Ian Sinclair, J.G.Ballard, Will Self, Peter Ackroyd, Robert Macfarlane, Stewart Home (“avant-bard”), et al. It is a set of ideas that loosely revolve around the proposition that movement through space, through either aimless wandering or purposeful walking, can enable one to re-connect with the past beneath one’s feet. In a sense, time immemorial and time out of mind can become time within mind; time can be experienced as synchronic rather than diachronic.
Guy Debord defined pyschogeography as “The study of the specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals.” It is a practice that is usually associated with cityscapes, but Merlin Coverley’s approach can be conveniently and completely applied to the tone, intention, practice and vibe of our Stroud research. Coverley's comments in his 2010 book, “…the predominant characteristics of pyschogeographical ideas – urban wandering, the imaginative reworking of the city, the otherworldly sense of spirit of place, the unexpected insights and juxtapositions created by aimless drifting, the new ways of experiencing familiar surroundings…” are  what our projects will be all about, all be it, in and around a mill town in the Cotswolds.

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