One thing that was confirmed during my research ‘action:art‘ is that our urban expeditions are frequently tiresome and uninspiring. The day to day tasks that populate the list in the back of our heads are often brought to the fore in such places, with shopfronts, adverts and services vying for our attention and our cash. Transport yourself into nature, however, and that list is much easier to set aside. Our responsibilities become to ourselves, our minds and our bodies, for pleasure and exercise.
What I learned from artists who have applied their practice in cities is that urban spaces can deliver these pleasures, we just have to engage with them differently. Since most of us in the UK live in urban areas, there is much to be gained from remembering how to wander.A Drifters Guide to Urban Wandering is inspired by the ‘Dérive’ (meaning ‘drift’) which was devised by the french theorist Guy Debord in the late 1950’s. A founding member of the avant-garde group The Situationisnt International, he popularised the concept of psychogeography- which, in part, is the study of how geography affects us psychologically. The Situationists observed that the realities of urban life were making people more closed off, more restricted in their actions, more docile and accepting of the mundane, so they devised artistic methods and interventions to counteract this. The Dérive was one of them.
A Dérive is an unplanned journey through an urban landscape, guided by its features and by the feelings they evoke. There are many ways to prompt this kind of journey, one of them is by using some simple instructions that influence the way you navigate the landscape, which is what I have done in ‘A Drifters Guide…’
Using instructions to influence your walk has a quite a strong effect on the way you move through a space and the things you notice. Dedicating yourself wholly to the process also has the effect of complete emersion, clearing your mind and allowing you to think more deeply about your surroundings and your place within them. When I trialled this with a few willing volunteers in October the benefits they reported were many. As well as noticing hidden bits of architecture, snippets of poignant conversation and discovering lesser trodden paths, the volunteers noticed how fast time flew, how far they had walked without realising and how much of regular life they had edited out.
I won’t pretend this method is anything new, you could easily set out on a journey with a set of instructions of your own making. What I am hoping to achieve with this pocket guide is to create a reminder, every time you reach in your pocket or bag, that you can transform your experience at a moments notice whenever and wherever you like.
With the guide comes also the opportunity to be involved in the wider project of documenting your Dérives. This is common practice and is discussed in the guide itself. I will be creating a specific web page to display your writing, drawings, photographs of the Dérives you do to create a bank of psychogeographic knowledge.
If you would like to buy a set of cards, they are available for £10. Contact me via the website to arrange.