There is something that I do that comes naturally, that I have done for as long as I remember, and it is this.....when I am visiting somewhere that is not my home town, I wander. Preferably with a camera, but I take the time to walk the streets, breath the scents and at times, secure in the thought that no one is watching - I touch things. Mostly the texture of the buildings, the smooth marble, the sandstone, the bumps where corners meet. Engaged in this way I can wander happily for hours.
Imagine my surprise upon reading my favourite quirky read, Frankie magazine, to find that this activity has a name. Unbeknownst to me I have been participating in psychogeography all this time. Who knew? What's more, it has been referred to as such since 1955 when the social theorist Guy Debord thought to add a moniker to this activity.
It is quaintly reassuring to know that the meandering I so readily get distracted by has a name. Not just any name, but one that sounds sort of important, or even scientific. Not just killing time, this activity has a name which gives the activity itself considerable street cred. Frankie defined it as "bushwalking in cities", and yes, you do still come across occasional wildlife. But more, it provides justification to the journey rather than just being a means of traversing point A to point B.
For me though it represents even more. There is the emotive undertone that is associated with wandering through the back streets and canals of somewhere like Venice that just doesn't come through in the term psychogeography. It doesn't quite capture the architecture, the textures, the shadows of light, the glimpses into people's lives, all there for the taking. It also misses the add on value of stopping for a drink or meal in some little out of the way cafe, where the workers of the city gather, where you produce a map, seek assistance, find out just where it is you are at, then work your way back to where you should be. A whole new level of seeing is there for those prepared to take the time.
Perhaps this concept goes further. How about gaining your Masters in Psychogeography? How about psychgeolocating? Being the ability to locate a suitable cafe or pub whilst on your wandering ramble. Or even the act of psychgeophotography? Visually documenting the sights and scenes encountered as you partake of another psychogeographical adventure....and my favourite? Psychogeobuddy - that special someone, who holds your hand, so you don't become lost as you wander and leads you safely home.
Check it out at Frankie issue 51 Jan/Feb 2013, p132.
Sent from my iPad