Monday, February 21, 2011

L'enfant en dérive, or Baby-led Psychogeography.

I've been doing some research on psychogeography recently. Psychogeography is mainly associated with the left radical Lettrist and Situationist International groups in the middle of the last century, although it has enjoyed something of a renaissance since the 90s, often stripped of explicitly artistic or political pretensions. By and large psychogeography refers to the practice of exploring and analysing the city in unusual ways, for example by directing an almost scientifically interpretive zeal towards the back alleys and edges of the city, or navigating with the use of an outdated or altered map.The best-known psychogeographic technique is the dérive, or drifting, which sees practitioners wandering around the city without a predetermined plan, going where impulse takes them.

I'd been curious about taking a deliberately psychogeographic turn in my familiar environments. I had two problems, though. First, there are only so many exploratory ways to approach the city when you're pushing a pram and have your radical urbanist activities limited by a toddler's nap and meal times [insert discussion about city, gender, flâneurs etc here...]. Second, I'm not convinced that a pure dérive is really technically possible: surely muscle memory does its bit to tug you towards established routes, and any attempt to resist and deliberately take more unfamiliar turns technically goes againts the spirit of the whole thing.

It did occur to me one day, though, that both problems could be solved to some degree by leaving the pram at home and letting the younger generation lead the drifting. He would definitely go wherever took his fancy without any internal censor to hinder the experiment. So out we headed.

As it turns out I was right, toddlers are drifters of the first order. The integrity of the experiment did suffer on the occasions I had to steer my little Situationist away from fast moving traffic, but still. We walked back and forth past neighbouring houses, spending half an hour on a 50-meter stretch of pavement, waving at cyclists and playing with sand. Most of that time, though, we sat in a neighbour's driveway looking at a cat.

Hegemonic conceptualisations of the city: 0; Toddler: 1

1 comment:

  1. oh that is funny! i'm sure that cat was worth it...