Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Listening Lines - The Samaritans

Yesterday a friend on Facebook posted a reminder about how difficult it can be for some people at Xmas time, and he put up the phone number for the Samaritans. From the UK you can call from any phone on: 116 123.


This post sparked an interesting discussion about the Samaritans, and I added that one of my family members was a Samaritan for 20 years and that there was a book of poetry called Listening Lines (Arrival Press 1995) that was written by volunteers and edited by Suzy Goodall. This is the poem of hers that was included, but there are many other touching ones in there, too. This poem was about a young homeless man living in King's Lynn, who visited Trixie at the Samaritans regularly, to talk to someone who cared, to sit in a warm room for a short while and drink a hot cup of tea:

UNTITLED

He comes again,
Same life, same story,
Same despair.

Happy now,
No more strife.
He takes his life.

Trixie

Monday, 5 December 2016

Psychogeography News - December 2016


Books
Roy Bayfield’s new book, Desire Paths, is now available (Triarchy Press). Paul Scraton’s Ghosts on the Shore has just been published by Influx Press. Nairn’s Towns is a collection of Ian Nairn’s writings, introduced by Owen Hatherley.

The City
White Noise is an art-based blog about people and the city. This is Andrea Gibbons website on the relationship between the country and the city: Writing Cities. Here is a post called A New Map of Berlin about cycling in Berlin.

Walking Related Posts and Blogs
Slow Travel Berlin has a post by Paul Sullivan on Walking in the City and Walking Through London’s History is a new project by students at Goldsmith’s (run by John Price).

Situationist Stuff
Derek Hales is giving a talk in Halifax on Dec 12 on Ralph Rumney and psychogeography. You can read a post entitled Salvaging Situationism: Race and Space by Andrea Gibbons here.

My Stuff
In November I was interviewed on Radio Fabrik in Salzburg for the Geographical Imaginations project by Kevin S. Fox - you can listen to the podcast here: Psychogeography 101. Here is an up-to-dated list of the guest posts on Particulations.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Psychogeography 101 - Geographical Imaginations Interview


In October the cultural geographer Kevin S. Fox interviewed me about psychogeography for his project Geographical Imaginations:
As an inquiry-based project, we ask questions and explore themes through dialogues with different texts and voices. Inevitably, our explorations return to simple, yet complex, questions…The main focus of the project is an hour-long radio essay program broadcast monthly from Radio Fabrik in Salzburg, Austria. In each episode we make brief expeditions into “the geographies of everything and nothing.” We reflect upon our relationships with the worlds we inhabit and co-create. 
Here’s the abstract for the interview:
In Psychogeography 101 we discuss contemporary urban exploration practices with cultural theorist and psychogeographer Tina Richardson. After tracing back to the mid-twentieth century work of the Situationist International, we outline what doing psychogeography looks like today and how it could—and should—be part of the practice of anyone seeking a better understanding of their own geographical imagination.
You can listen to a podcast of the edited interview that went out live on Radio Fabrik on 26th November, here: Episode 25: Psychogeography 101

Monday, 21 November 2016

A Psychogeography Bucket List


This interview by Anna Chism has featured in both STEPZ and Foxhole (vol. 1)

Ahead of the release of her edited volume WalkingInside Out: Contemporary British Psychogeography Anna Chism interviews Tina Richardson on those spaces and places that are top of her wish list when it comes to psychogeographical exploration.
I eventually find Tina’s house just off the Leeds Ring Road. With a pub, bowls club, wooded area and dog-walking field opposite, it is a geographical combination of suburban-rural. I imagine it is an interesting space for a psychogeographer to reside. She has lived in this part of North Leeds for the past three years in a post-Victorian terraced house along with her elderly companion, ex-hippy turned nun, Sister Moonshine.
Tina could not be described as a reluctant interviewee, giving interviews to anyone who will give her a minute of their time. As part of the current revival of psychogeography she is one of the ‘the new psychogeographers’, the moment whereby psychogeography is becoming increasingly self-conscious and reflexive.
Tina welcomes me into her study – a room full of books and objet d’art resembling a pretentious kitsch version of Freud’s office – and we settle by the window with our rooibos. I throw my coat over a fluorescent green plaster-of-Paris version of Rodin’s David and congratulate her on the record-breaking numbers of pre-orders of her new volume. And we begin.
AC: Tina, tell me the top three places in the world you would like to carry out a psychogeography-related project.
TR: At the moment – and this list would possibly be different if you asked me in a year’s time – it would be Dubai, Camp Bastion and Wymondham College.
AC: Well, I’ve heard of the first two, but where the heck is Wymondham College and what makes it a place ripe for psychogeography?
TR: It’s actually a secondary school in Norfolk not far from Norwich and it used to be a military hospital up until it became a grammar school in 1951. It’s a publicly funded boarding school and has a noteworthy campus format, and needless to say, an interesting history, which actually includes Anglo Saxon finds. At one time the pupils slept in Nissan huts left there by the British Forces and even up until the 1980s attended classes in the huts. Only one Nissan hut remains now, as part of the school’s heritage.
AC: What angle would you take if you had the opportunity to work on the campus?
TR: Well, while it would be easy for me to use the same methodology I did for my PhD – a schizocartography of a campus space (in that instance the University of Leeds) – I think Wymondham College lends itself better to one of haunting. For instance, part of the original hospital has a mortuary, but more significantly than that are the anecdotal stories that have become memes promulgated by the pupils themselves. These ghostly stories about the college are passed on to all the new pupils by the older ones, often carried out in performative way on specific dates each year.
AC: Tell me what it is about Dubai that takes your urban fancy?
TR: Ever since I’ve been a psychogeographer I’ve been interested in Dubai. I used to teach a class on it and used it as an example of a postmodern space. In a way it is a post postmodern space. If Los Angeles represents the postmodern city par excellence, then Dubai represents the next phase of urban development, whatever the name for that might be. Dubai needs its own school of urbanism and theory like Chicago and Los Angeles had. This potential school will look at a dynamics of urbanism whereby actual physical space is created from ‘nothing’, either vertically, as in Blade Runner and The Fifth Element, or horizontally, for example like Dubai, from the sea, by creating islands of sand.
AC: What kind of problems might you anticipate if you were to carry out psychogeography in Dubai?
TR: I’m not sure what it is like for a woman to walk in Dubai. It is not a pedestrian-friendly city, by all accounts. I did a project in Los Angeles – the city of cars – and that was interesting in a place where walking was a rare process of moving about the city. However, in regards to Dubai, my interest is in the spaces that have been formed out of the sea, such as the Palm Islands. These islands can be seen from space. They have changed the lay of the land on a very fundamental level and in an amazingly creative way.
AC: Thanks, Tina. Now for your final space. Surely you’ve missed the psychogeographical boat on Camp Bastion?
TR: Yes, I’m afraid that’s true. Ideally I would have loved to have done a project during the peak of its decommissioning, but it is coming to an end now. Camp Bastion is returning to the desert from whence it sprung, a bit like Dubai but in reverse. Camp Bastion was a city as well as a military airbase. It required a project in itself in the dismantling of it – actually costing six times more than that of its creation. It’s a unique space and it is this that makes it intriguing to me. Before Camp Bastion, Chernobyl was on my bucket list, but Chernobyl has been worked and re-worked a lot in recent times.
AC: How would you have made your case for doing a project in Camp Bastion?
TR: Well, I wouldn’t have passed the security checks even if there was the remotest chance they’d have allowed a civvy on the camp. They would have taken one look at my website and thought ‘There is no way we are letting that lefty subversive anywhere near this base’!
AC: What other places are on your bucket list?
TR: Portmerion, Fordlandia and Celebration would all be interesting places to explore, and for similar reasons, and are definitely on my list.
AC: Before we finish, can I ask you what you are working on now?
TR: I’m currently scheduling talks for the promotion of the book and working on the autumn edition of Stepz.

Tina’s edited volume Walking Inside Out: Contemporary British Psychogeography is published by Rowman and Littlefield International and will be out in July 2015. You can find out more about her work on her website: www.schizocartography.org

Saturday, 19 November 2016

#Post-Truth – Trump, Truth and Treachery in the Post Post-Modern


There was an interesting article in The Conversation yesterday: The surprising origins of post truth – and how it was spawned by the liberal left. It’s interesting to me because it could be described as coming under the general rubric of cultural studies, not least for the reference to Jean-Francois Lyotard’s book The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, a key text in cultural theory. I won’t go into the article in depth - which starts by stating that post-truth is the international word of the year - as you can read it yourself. What I would like to do is include some extra cultural theory to support/expand on what the author, Andrew Calcutt, says and draw a few concepts together that are related to truth - reality, language and evil – and list them next to their respective theorists.

Michel Foucault: Truth, Discourse and Language
For Foucault statements, appearing as speech acts, are not about truth versus falsity, rather they designate a field of discourse that “emerges in its materiality, appears with a status, enters various networks and various fields of use, is subjected to transferences and modifications, is integrated into operations and strategies in which its identity is maintained or effaced” (2005, 118). Statements exist within a designated field, thus utilising relevant forces which dictate the validity of a given utterance. Foucault explains how the statement is partly concealed in its very deployment. ‘Truth’ is not a function of the words and sentences themselves, but the whole network of factors which form that specific utterance in the propagation of a specific statement. The statement exists through a form of appropriation and it is legitimised through the utilisation of the forces that exist, in an event-like state, around it. For Foucault “a true discourse engenders or ‘manufactures’ something that does not yet exist, that is, ‘fictions’ it” (1980, 193). In regard to the Trump presidency, we can see the power of statement and how it operates within a discourse of power, like all statements do. However, what is key to what I have written here in regards to Foucault is this manufacturing of something new, which also relates to my last post on the subject of Trump: #PresidentTrump – A Simulated Hold-Up. So, how does the concept of truth sit with another postmodern theorist, Baudrillard…

Jean Baudrillard: Evil, Language and the Sign
In The Intelligence of Evil or the Lucidity Pact, Baudrillard says “It is impossible to destroy the system by a contradiction-based logic or by reversing the balance of forces – in short, by a direct, dialectical revolution affecting the economic or political infrastructure. Everything that produces contradiction or a balance of forces or energy in general merely feeds back into the system and drives it on” (2005, 4) and I believe we witnessed this process unfolding in the US presidential election. But what of truth? The people were witness to lies in the Trump election (and BRexit). These lies did not seem to matter as much as some of us expected they might – especially in the academic community (although we will always have a respective theory to why these things happen, depending on our own specialism). Well, it’s all tied up in semiology for Baudrillard. Baudrillard asks the question: “What becomes of the arbitrary nature of the sign when the referent ceases to be the referent?” (2005, 68). He goes on to explain: “The sign, ceasing to be a sign, becomes once again a thing among things. That is to say, a thing of total necessity or absolute contingency…For the sign is a scene, the scene of representation, of seduction, of language: in language signs seduce once another beyond meaning [and] the disappearance of this scene clears the way for a principle of obscenity, a pornographic materialization of everything” (2005, 68-69). In regards to good and evil, Baudrillard explains that the disintegration of the sign reduces these terms to “happiness and misfortune” (2005, 139). In the media many have said that it was the misfortune felt by the, mostly, white working class in the US that led to Trump’s win. This leads me on to the next set of terms, not by a cultural theorist, interestingly, but in a book that the article reminded me of: The People of the Lie.

M. Scott Peck: Stress, Evil and the Cult Leader
In his book about human evil, the psychiatrist and author M. Scott Peck explains that this is what happens to individuals in times of stress: “The problem is that the role of the follower is the role of the child. The individual adult as individual is master of his own ship, director of his destiny. But when he assumes the role of follower he hands over to the leader his power: his authority over himself as decision-maker. He becomes psychologically dependent on the leader as a child is dependent on its parents. In this way there is profound tendency for the average individual to emotionally regress as soon as he becomes a group member” (from ‘Group Dynamics: Dependency and Narcissism’ in The People of the Lie) (1998, 223). The grandiose narcissist Trump is the cult leader par excellence. His self-appointed place as saviour of the vulnerable/misunderstood/side-lined makes him a ‘perfect’ leader in a #post-truth world!

Bibliography:
Baudrillard, Jean. The Intelligence of Evil or the Lucidity Pact. Oxford and New York: Berg, 2005.
Foucault, Michel. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Press, 1980.
Foucault, Michel. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. London and NewYork: Routledge, 2005.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Place-Hacking in Wonderland


Daresbury Hall in Better Times
(all other images provided by the author)

By Anonymous

There is a gap in the fence, my senses heighten. I feel fully alive as I plunge into the unknown on the other side...

Ruin porn, dereliction, decay, urban exploration and place-hacking have always interested me. It is hard to explain why, exactly, and up until this year this consisted of an occasional look at related photos and videos on the internet. I was interested enough to read the book Explore Everything by Bradley L. Garrett but was nevertheless an armchair urban explorer. I knew no-one else in the field, nor any groups in the area, and had no equipment apart from a torch, camera, and mobile phone, with no plans on the horizon.


Adventures start somewhere and mine started when an article in the local newspaper caught my eye. A cannabis farm had been discovered and busted at the derelict Daresbury Hall. I knew that Daresbury was a quiet area, and it was a sunny spring afternoon, so I put on my boots and went for a walk to see what I could find.

Daresbury is a typical Cheshire village situated in rural green belt just south of Warrington. It has one main lane with another leading off towards Hatton. It has a few houses, a primary school, a pub called The Ring O' Bells and red telephone boxes. It also has a connection with Lewis Carroll at All Saints Church, which has turned the area into a kind of heritage theme park, with a visitor centre at the church, a wonderland mosaic and a weather vane at the school, a Lewis Carroll walk around the fields, plus plenty of Cheshire cats.


Walking past the church towards Hatton, I see a fence covered in signs warning of security and guard dogs, which first alerts you to Daresbury Hall's grounds. It seems to be an unwritten law among urban explorers not to give too much away, or reveal how to gain access to a site so as not to antagonise the owners and have the way blocked. All I can say is that it was easy to get in. I had not planned to go in, but seeing an opportunity I just decided to go for it and was soon running across the no-man’s-land of the lawn and into cover.


After waiting for a few moments it looked like I had not been seen. I had the place to myself and so I came out of hiding, walking past the derelict out-buildings to the abandoned swimming pool at the back.

I spent a good two hours exploring the interior, not knowing what was in the next room or around the next corner. There was a lot of graffiti on the walls ranging from the disturbing to the childish: it looked like the place was regularly visited by the local teenagers as well as explorers. I later found out that the hall was used for zombie apocalypse events.


What was the appeal? Was it the ruin porn photography? Was it the trespassing - beating the system and getting in? Or being in a liminal place, a place with heightened awareness of time and transition, touched with an underlying melancholy? I was also exploring my own thoughts as I walked around.

A couple of weeks later another article appeared in the local newspaper. A mysterious fire had gutted the hall and it also had a planning application for development - it was a listed building.

A new kind of exploration has now taken over as the locals fly drones over the area...

Desire Paths by Roy Bayfield


Desire Paths: Real Walks to Nonreal Places by Roy Bayfield

Roy Bayfield really walks in Desire Paths. But not only does he really walk, we accompany him on these “real walks to nonreal places”. This book is no theorising, speculating and proselytising text about walking by someone who views it from a distance. It is walking in the most practical, material and embodied way that only a true urban walkers can speak of. And Bayfield takes us on his journey. Describing himself as an autobiogeographer, we drift with him through the personal and three-dimensional landscape of his voyages in the physical, spiritual, virtual and human realms. This book is for both those already involved in urban walking and for the novice. For those who are new to it, its format is especially designed to open your eyes to the features of the landscape, and at the same time provide you with experimental walking exercises.

You can purchase, and find out more about, Bayfield's new book here: Triarchy Press.