Sunday, 8 October 2017

A Psychogeography of Where I Grew Up


A psychogeography of where I grew up
(how forms and shapes have formed and shaped me)

By Ursula Troche

This is an account in (inter/cultural) translation and transposition. I’ve been inspired to write this because I realised that, just like the personal is political, the personal is geographical too! So there’s a nice kind of methodology in there, which is why psychogeography is so relevant!

Self- disclosure: Loehne – this is the place where I grew up, a place in the contradictory location of being both in the east and in the west. Not near the border with East Germany (or vice versa), but East-West-phalia. This is what it’s actually called: ‘Ostwestfalen’. It’s abbreviated as ‘OWL’ – and so it acquires a translated position as the land of the Owl!

Loehne, within it, is a town, not big, a town only just. Its main feature is once again an east-west connection, and this time of the bigger kind: it is situated on the east-west train-line that ran from Paris, or London via ferry, all the way to Moscow. Or vice versa I should say, because the train carriages that were used were original Soviet trains! Uniquely and exceptionally despite the Cold War and the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall, this train ran – everyday! Who could have been on it though? I was, sadly, too young to know. Besides this kind of wondrous line, little and absolutely unassuming Loehne lies on one of the main north-south links as well, so it’s been a big junction, with a massive train-depot that went with it. In hindsight, it looks like I grew up on a kind of magic crossing, like the meeting of ley-lines or so.

Small town big trains! There are lots of other towns in the area, but all of them small. So it’s an urban-rural mix, and this is reflected in terms of labour history as well: it’s got traditionally, in quite equal parts, workers and farmers.

Here the terms show their inadequacy too: as if farmers don’t do work! But if we think of workers as factory workers, i.e. those in a contracted situation rather than working for themselves, then Loehne is one of those places where workers and farmers meet. It’s not a farming community and not an entirely industrial community, it is both! There have only been some mines in the area too, though many more mines are to be found a bit further down from here. Basically the next big town to Loehne is Herford, the next city next to that is Bielefeld, and behind Bielefeld you have a rural area in the north, and the ‘mine field’ in the south: Dortmund, Bochum, Essen, and all the very big mining towns are to be found here: all the mine-biggies! I remember very well, whilst being at school, hearing when mine after mine was shut down just next door to me, and I was really surprised about why this was happening. There was no miner’s strike here big enough to make headlines, but there was obviously frustration and activism here too: the zeitgeist was the same, and the danger of an edge of an age reached. This topic is so big, and has such strong echo with northern England, that I’ve set aside a project for this – to come!


Mother, Father, Child – in the landscape

The geography of the area is: it’s a big and wobbly hilly valley tucked inside two strings of bigger hills, which are the last before the land becomes flatland, from where it eventually meets the sea. The hill-string in the south has a romanicised (-romanticised!) name (Teutoburg hills), the one in the north has a germanic name (Wiehen hills). The roman hill-string would be my dad: he, the one from far, mixed, cosmopolitan, once sephardic , and my mum the germanic hill-string: the parochial, local one – though in reality she was not quite local to the area. I was situated between my parental hills, so I was in the valley. My older brother would have been on top of the valley, I at the bottom. I was closest to the river then, I liked fluidity, I wanted to flow - but on the other hand the river could flood me over, so my position was unsafe too!

There was once a battle at the roman hills, between the Romans and the Germans, a battle which may have been reverberated symbolically in the sort of anti-marriage of my parents, who never got on. In transposed Freudian terms one might say that my mother and father were battling between being ‘ego’ and ‘superego’ whilst I was the little ‘id’.

I, the id from the valley, trying to rise and grow, either by acquiring ‘ego’ or superego’ aspects for myself, or by become an id-entity, by acquiring an identity! My personal landscape (‘psycho-geography?’) then, needs its own hills too.


Hometown?!

I’ve avoided calling it a hometown, because it hasn’t been for a long time, though it is assumed to be this on many occasions. The term ‘hometown’ sounds too static for me, as if the concept of ‘home’ cannot move! I have not lived there as an adult, and so the attachment to place has not undergone the ‘independent movement’ that adulthood offers. Independent movement is key to grow into a town, and even if you have grown up somewhere, you might not necessarily grow into it (whilst growing up!), in this sense. I wonder what has impacted me most about Loehne: maybe the combination of railways and mines: my way to school led via a path which was a long-disused train-line that once carried workers to and from a mine up the road (or up the train, into the hills), where iron-ore was once mined.

I have become a miner perhaps in the psychological sense: I am mining my subconscious, there is so much ‘raw’ material inside, which can be used for the production of thought!

Related posts...
The Muso-Psychogegraphical Wanderings of a Retrospective Sojourn

Saturday, 30 September 2017

The Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography – Walk-Out by Fenella Brandenburg


As many of you know, Fenella Brandenburg is a regular contributor to this blog, so naturally I was hoping for a report from her of The Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography held at Huddersfield University in September 2017, not least because she and David Bollinger gave the keynote speech. However, her curt reply to my request was: “Are you kidding! There is no way I want to be associated with that load of bimbling idiots”. Which, it transpired, echoed her walk-out when she stormed off stage shouting: “This conference is a shambles!”. Prior to that remark she had slammed down her conference paper, turned to Bollinger and said: “If you think I am staying at yours tonight, you have another thing coming. I am off to check into the Holiday Inn. Now!”. With that she grabbed her suitcase and left the conference...

Anyway, in the absence of a post from Brandenburg, Tim Waters has kindly allowed me to reproduce part of his post here, and link to his full report of the conference.

Tim Water’s Report on the Conference

Extract of the keynote by Bollinger and Brandenburg:
To open the congress, we were treated with a very special talk. David and Fenella appeared from a cupboard where they had been waiting for 30 minutes before I introduced them. There were some audio problems and some people complained about not being able to hear it properly from the back. But they steamed ahead. There were several laughs and I think when people got the format they enjoyed it. The format was in the way of a read sequence of email exchanges between these two academics. David did say that one of his chapters of a forthcoming book was available to be viewed, and here it is: ‘Either put on these glasses or start eating that trash can! Psychogeographically walking with John Nada, Beryl Curt and David Bollinger’.

You can read Tim’s full report here.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

A Visit to Leeds Zine Fair 2017


Early this month I went to the Leeds Zine Fair for the first time. I believe this is an annual event, but this was my first visit as a zine-maker (or rather, zine-editor). I was preparing myself for a potential lecture on the subject, which I may be doing in the next academic year. So, the selection above I bought for £10 - a bargain, I would say - which was my limited budget.

I was as interested in the zine-makers as the zines themselves. This chap had been making zines for years.


So, I bought one of his oldest ones that he told me was from the early 90s: Headcheese and Chainsaws/Sludgefest. It's, sort of, two zines in one (you can reverse it, turn it upside down and you have another zine at the back). It also came with a couple of the original free inserts!


A recent zine that he was selling, Practical Visual Nihilism, was very new and has a completely different aesthetic, as you can see: slick, shiny, professional-looking printed material:


It also became apparent that there is a large choice in terms of format and also a vast subject-area in terms of content. No more time to post anything more about my trip, but it was a great morning and I would highly recommend a visit to your local, annual zine fair. The zines, and the people, were fascinating and there are zines on everything imaginable: from 'sexual freedom' to 'necromancy'!

zine
/ziːn/
noun informal
a magazine, especially a fanzine.

Links:
Punk Fanzines
Tom Vague
Zine History and Research at OCAD University
Zines Collection at Michigan State University

Thursday, 31 August 2017

The Fundamentals of the Psychogeographical Method - Conference Paper


The Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography is happening again this year on the 8th to 10th of September at the University of Huddersfield. I thought you might like to see details from the paper that Fenella Brandenburg (occasional guest blogger here at particulations), is giving with David Bollinger (guest blogger at notanotherpsychogeographyblog).

Abstract
Bollinger and Brandenberg are world leading psychogeographers and in this key-note talk they will take you on a grand tour of what psychogeography is all about and will explain how to go about creating your own psychogeographical adventures. They will also be promoting their new book, The Fundamentals of the Psychogeographical Method, which will be published by Dodo Press in 2018. Their soon to be published book has received outstanding positive reviews from well-known psychogeographers such as Luther Blissett, who said: "this book will change your life!". Victor Salamanca described the book as "a journey into the heart of darkness and a fascinating snapshot of who we are, lit by Bollinger and Brandenburg’s vivid prose. I’m sure that it will be read in a thousand years from now" and also Rudolf Rudenski commented that "Psychogeography is in crisis. Anyone that calls themselves a psychogeographer is actually a pseudo-psychogeographer. Bollinger and Brandenburg show us how to carve a path through the crap of psychogeography and they boldly point the way to a new way of doing psychogeography foregrounding an agenda for social change and action".

Friday, 18 August 2017

Warrington Means Business



By Paul Hazlehurst

Walking inside out, explore, photograph, make notes
Warrington becoming a Schizocartian vision of rhizomes
Rhizomes of institutions accelerate the process
A man in a suit, bottled water on desk: ‘Moving Forward’
Council Masterplans, C.G.I

Utopia mediated through billboards, display banners, public consultations, questionnaires, local press...
...and Facebook groups
Psychic rhizomes: tangling, weaving, knotting...
...from one mind to another
Emotional Ley lines, multi coloured connections, the mask of the spectacle slipping
‘Keep the spin and gloss positive’

A town being bullied into a city: city of culture, garden city
‘24,000 new homes by the year 2037’
Bypasses, arterial link roads, riverside apartments, loss of green belt
Japanese Knotweed cracking the pavement
Bat surveys and money for ecologists

I walk along feeling slightly uneasy, a dark cloud forming on the horizon, a liminal time zone between demolition an regeneration, walking past empty shops and windows

Photographic images: a bricolage of the objective, subjective landscape
Urban decay, street photography, hidden places, art, historical documentation...
...ready to download and assemble at home


Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Walking Inside Out - Introduction



Introduction:A Wander through the Scene of British Urban Walking

by Tina Richardson


WHAT IS PSYCHOGEOGRAPHY?

Get a map of your local area and spread it out on the floor. Study the map, imagine the terrain, find your preferred route – perhaps a bridleway or a towpath – and trace it on the map. Grab your coat off the hook in the hallway and put on your sturdy shoes. Leave the house and dump the map in the wheelie bin. Forget the map. Go to the nearest bus stop and get on the first bus that comes along. Get off when you feel you are far enough away from home that the area is unfamiliar. Begin your walk here.

Psychogeography does not have to be complicated. Anyone can do it. You do not need a map, Gor-Tex, a rucksack or a companion. All you need is a curious nature and a comfortable pair of shoes. There are no rules to doing psychogeography - this is its beauty. However, it is this that makes it hard to pin down in any formalised way. It is also this ‘unruly’ character (disruptive, unsystematic, random) that makes for much discussion about its meaning and purpose - today more than at any other time.

This volume does not pretend to have a definitive answer to what psychogeography is, but it does propose to open up the space that can be defined as psychogeography, providing examples and encouraging debate. In his introduction to Psychogeography (2006) Merlin Coverley asks: “Are we talking about a predominantly literary movement or a political strategy, a series of new age ideas or a set of avant-garde practices?” and goes on to say that it is all the above (2006, 9-10). In just a couple of sentences we have opened up a can of nebulous worms on the ambulatory behemoth that psychogeography (or urban walking) is. What this selected volume of essays does is present the state of play as it is for psychogeography in the UK in the 21st century...

Click here to read a viewable online copy of the full introduction, or here to download a pdf.


Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Assembling the Assemblage: Developing Schizocartography in Support of an Urban Semiology


You can read this free/open access article, published in Humanities Journal  special edition, Spatial Bricolage: Methodological Eclecticism and the Poetics of 'Making Do', edited by Les Roberts. Here is the abstract, and below part of the introduction and a link to the rest of the article:

Abstract

This article looks at the formulation of a methodology that incorporates a walking-based practice and borrows from a variety of theories in order to create a flexible tool that is able to critique and express the multiplicities of experiences produced by moving about the built environment. Inherent in postmodernism is the availability of a multitude of objects (or texts) available for reuse, reinterpretation, and appropriation under the umbrella of bricolage. The author discusses her development of schizocartography (the conflation of a phrase belonging to Félix Guattari) and how she has incorporated elements from Situationist psychogeography, Marxist geography, and poststructural theory and placed them alongside theories that examine subjectivity. This toolbox enables multiple possibilities for interpretation which reflect the actual heterogeneity of place and also mirror the complexities that are integral in challenging the totalizing perspective of space that capitalism encourages.

Introduction

The ways that we develop methods to help us understand, critique, and express our responses to urban space are as dynamic and ever-changing as the geographical space is that we are presented with as our object of study. The built environment can often operate on our psyches in a subliminal fashion, such that its changes—even when this involves substantial developments—become incorporated into our spatial awareness quickly and subtly. This has the effect of creating a type of cultural forgetting whereby it becomes difficult to remember what was in that place prior to these transformations taking over. What these transformations may hide requires a form of revealing to take place that will not only expose the layers of history, but will also encourage discussion, engender creative responses, and give voice to what is under the veneer of our everyday urban spaces.

This article offers a discussion on the forming of a method of urban critique—schizocartography—which allows for a flexibility in regard to interpretation, and also borrows from differing theories and practices in order to create a flexible set of instruments. This toolbox can be applied to all stages of the process of analysis, from the physical field work, to the critique and research, through to the forms in which the outcomes may be presented. Schizocartography brings together psychogeographical practice and urbanism with theories that examine subjectivity, heterogeneity, and power in order to present an adaptable set of tools that assesses many of the components involved in being present in our towns and cities. Schizocartography “reveal[s] the aesthetic and ideological contradictions that appear in urban space while simultaneously reclaiming the subjectivity of individuals by enabling new modes of creative expression. [It] challenges the ossified symbols of hierarchical structures through the act of crossing the barriers (concrete or abstract) of a particular terrain.” (Richardson 2015, p. 182). It acknowledges the need for a subjective mapping of place, one that can respond to the fluidity of physical space as much as it does to the flexibility of us as individuals. Cont...