Last week we discussed the “Ellis” sigil, the purpose of which was to “get people out of their ruts,” as well as a 2nd sigil, the purpose of which was to “help organize and encourage enthusiasm among our group” and replicated it; additionally, following mention of taking walks Sunday evenings, I mentioned “psychogeography” as a possible vein of research for our weekly moots.
Psychogeography is defined in Wikipedia thusly: “The study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.” This being a pretty vague definition, I have found it clarified further in a description of the synonymic Dérive, a French concept meaning “an aimless walk,” sometimes translated as drift, probably through city streets, that follows the whim of the moment.
The foundation of the idea is to explore your psychogeography without preconceptions, to understand your location, and thus your existence, through your un-mediated perceptions.
French philosopher and Situationist Guy Debord used this idea to try and convince readers to revisit the way they looked at urban spaces. Rather than being prisoners to their daily route and routine, living in a complex city but treading the same path every day, he urged people to follow their emotions and to look at urban situations in a radical new way.
Debord explains in Theory of the Dérive that dérives are best when composed of a group of two or three people who have "reached the same awakening of consciousness." They most often occur in one day, that is the time between the waking and sleeping hours—having nothing to do with the solar day. Sometimes, though, they can last several days or often will occur within only a few hours. Dérives most often occur on foot but can employ the use of taxis but only to move away from the usual surroundings.
Hakim Bey’s famous “Temporary Autonomous Zone” (TAZ) describes the socio-political tactic of creating temporary space that eludes formal structures of control. The essay uses various historical and philosophical examples, all of which attempt to lead the reader to the conclusion that the best way to create a non-hierarchical system of social relationships is to concentrate on the present and on releasing one's own mind from the controlling mechanisms that have been imposed on it—one example being the Dérive.
Applying all these concepts to our little Sunday evening gatherings leads to a few obvious thoughts—e.g., in order to reproduce the psychogeographical explorations among ourselves, we should attempt our wanderings w/ as few restraints as possible—or, given restraints, that we should have specific goals in mind. One thought is that, given the weather, our walks on hot days should perhaps be aimed downhill, and/or toward air conditioning, and/or toward water, or beer.
Insofar as “goals” are concerned, we might consider imposing a sigil of our devising on a map of the Loop or downtown, and in walking the path of the sigil, we would charge it w/ our exhausted energy and enervation…
Hakim Bey is rarely direct/explicit in his narrative, nor will I be here. I do not wish to propose any programs, ever, but rather, to suggest, to hint at possibilities. A walk is a walk is a walk; however, to walk w/o teleology, to walk w/ the senses open, should cause the route to open itself up to us in some way/s normally hidden by workaday agendae.
Bey, again, from “The Architectonality of Psychogeographicism or The Hieroglyphics of Driftwork”:
“The Babylonian grid-city wants memory to persist thru time -- smooth & empty time -- but as Dali showed, memory persists only in the deliquescense of measured time. The medieval-hermetic city (like Blake's Green Jerusalem) preserves memory but in a "disordered" way -- like akashic marmalade -- time which is textured & full. "Babylon" preserves order (or else!) -- but what happens to memory there ? Isn't it transmuted into the poison formaldehyde of History, the re-iterated tale of our poverty & their power, taxonomic myth of the ruling class ? Who can blame us for harboring both a nostalgia & an insurrectionary desire for the narrow winding alleys, shadowy steps, covered ways & tunnels, middens & cellars of a city which has designed itself -- organically, unconsciously -- within an aesthetic of festive & secret conviviality, & of the curvaciuos negentropic mutability of memory itself ?”
Next week: Ye Alphabet of Desire…