Sunday, April 29, 2012

Psychogeography and the persona of place

James "orbific" Burt is running a Psychogeography Workshop on May 26th in Brighton, exploring alternative ways of, uh, exploring what we would otherwise call "familiar ground". Having seen James talk on the subject before, there's certainly plenty (perhaps infinite) techniques to draw on and content to call up.

The "narrative of place" idea is interesting not because it adds some meaning to our locality, but because it shifts it. Psychogeography reveals more than the underlying place itself - it also highlights the fact that even in everyday life - especially in everyday life - we exist within a pre-conceived narrative already.

We're so used to it that we don't notice it, but as we wander the streets, we observe them, and go on to become entangled with them. We "know" the areas with character that we like, that we trust, that we find seedy or scary or even embarrassing. We take affectionate shortcuts, or long scenic routes. We navigate the terrain with feeling, as if we're reading the hills like words on an page. Our route betrays our mood, and the story mood desires.

Everyone's locality has a different story, knitted together from their memories, personalities, and circumstances. Psychogeography lets us escape ours, and stumble across others', embedded into the urban landscape. We can reconnect with the anonymous by disconnecting from ourselves. We can take on new persona and the new senses that come with them.

Then, when we return to our own lives, the world around us has already shifted.

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