Tuesday, 3 September 2019
If you are interested in schizocartography, or psychogeography in general, I will be presenting at the 4WCOP Psychogeography Conference on 6 September 2019 at 12.30 at Heritage Quay at the University of Huddersfield.
Schizocartography will be revisited, 10 years on, and you can see what will be covered in my talk below. Events are free, but you need to book a place.
Hope to see you there!
Saturday, 31 August 2019
Fenella Brandenburg and David Bolinger will be together again at the Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography on Friday 6th September at 12.30. The haven't presented together since 2017, when Fenella stormed off the stage in a strop. Here's hoping that their 2019 conference talk goes a bit better. This will be a performance-style talk at the cusp of J G Ballard's fictional Concrete Island and the non-fictional place, the Trafford Centre in Manchester.
I am hoping that Brandenburg will contribute a blog post after the conference, but last time I asked her she said “Are you kidding! There is no way I want to be associated with that load of bimbling idiots”.
All welcome! It is free, but please book your place.
Sunday, 4 August 2019
Gareth E. Rees’s “unexplored urban wilderness” of car park jouissance brings all of your favourite urban phenomenon together under one volume. From faux architecture to surveillance zones, live geese to dead humans, and psychogeography to dogging, it’s all here. The back cover says:
Gareth E. Rees believes that the retail car park has as much mystery, magic and terror as any mountain, meadow or wood. He’s out to prove it by walking the car parks of Britain, journeying across the country from Plymouth to Edinburgh, much to the horror of his family, friends – and, most of all – himself.The chapters are themed, for example - The Access Road, Animal Instincts, and Doughnuts – making for a much more interesting read than just a straightforward car park by car park analysis. There are also images, taken from the research, and a neat little leitmotif of a shopping trolley, which pops up now and then.
Rees’s lively, articulate - at times sensitive and personal - non-fiction draws on his observations of the spaces to hand, includes background research, social history and his adeptness in crafting a good story. It is for psychogeographers and non-psychogeographers alike.
Car Park Life (2019) is published by Influx Press and you can find out more about it here.
Saturday, 15 June 2019
Figure 1: Las Meninas (1656) by Diego Velázquez © Museo Nacional del Prado
Link to free copy
Below is the abstract from my recently published articles in Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture and underneath that, if you click on the link, you can download a free copy (please note, there are only 50 free copies, so at some point they may run out).
This article examines fashion imagery in regard to representations of power as they pertain to the mise en scene of fashion advertising. By employing a specific form of image critique employed by Michel Foucault in The Order of Things , a new methodology for analyzing fashion advertising is proposed and formulated. This form of critique enables elements such as the gaze, light and space to be framed into lines of sight. These lines can be examined in regard to the viewing subject, the staging of the advert, and structures of power. In his critique of the painting by Diego Velázquez Las Meninas (1656), Foucault states: “No gaze is stable, or rather, in the neutral furrow of the gaze piercing at a right angle through the canvas, subject and object, the spectator and the model, reverse their roles to infinity”. This sentence presents us with the phenomenological form of Foucault’s critique, containing a number of the themes that thread their way through his analysis of this baroque painting of the characters surrounding the child princess. These themes enable us to use this methodology to critique fashion imagery and this article offers up a new approach to visual analysis, one that has not been considered before and that can now be added to the fashion theory toolbox.
Keywords: fashion advertising, Michel Foucault, hermeneutics, pedagogy, phenomenology
Tuesday, 21 May 2019
I will be presenting a short research-based performance style lecture on June 13 at Manchester Metropolitan University entitled:
The Rael/Real of Psychogeography: Urban walking as a method of ameliorating castration anxiety in Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
It is for anyone interested in psychogeography, psychoanalysis, popular culture, cultural theory and/or progressive rock.
The lecture will be about 20 minutes long and there will be time for questions afterwards. All welcome.
Rael is not real, but he is a popular culture representation of a real individual who is a stranger in a new city. As a recent immigrant to New York, Rael has to negotiate the alien space that has suddenly become his home. Part hero, part graffiti artist, part urban explorer, we witness our protagonist traversing the physical landscape of the city and that of his own psyche.
This paper explores the Lacanian concepts of castration anxiety, lack, the Other, and the real, in the context of the album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (Genesis, 1974). It examines the anxiety displayed in the character of the story and his attempts to work through this by using the landscape of the city as a vehicle for his own self-therapy.
By analysing Rael’s behaviour in the story, Richardson demonstrates that by taking a psychogeographic approach to the physical space of the city, and the abstract space of his own mind, Rael manages to work his way through the aesthetics of living in New York, as a foreigner, by facing his own troubled past.
TIME: June 13th 5.30-6.30
VENUE: Geoffrey Manton Building (Room GM LT4), Manchester Campus, Manchester Metropolitan University
Please see link to map here:
I look forward to seeing you there.
Sunday, 12 May 2019
By Kate Raworth
‘Buy land – they aren’t making it any more,’ quipped Mark Twain. It’s a maxim that would certainly serve you well in a game of Monopoly, the bestselling board game that has taught generations of children to buy up property, stack it with hotels, and charge fellow players sky-high rents for the privilege of accidentally landing there.
The game’s little-known inventor, Elizabeth Magie, would no doubt have made herself go directly to jail if she’d lived to know just how influential today’s twisted version of her game has turned out to be. Why? Because it encourages its players to celebrate exactly the opposite values to those she intended to champion.
Born in 1866, Magie was an outspoken rebel against the norms and politics of her times. She was unmarried into her 40s, independent and proud of it, and made her point with a publicity stunt. Taking out a newspaper advertisement, she offered herself as a ‘young woman American slave’ for sale to the highest bidder. Her aim, she told shocked readers, was to highlight the subordinate position of women in society. ‘We are not machines,’ she said. ‘Girls have minds, desires, hopes and ambition.’
In addition to confronting gender politics, Magie decided to take on the capitalist system of property ownership – this time not through a publicity stunt but in the form of a board game. The inspiration began with a book that her father, the anti-monopolist politician James Magie, had handed to her. In the pages of Henry George’s classic, Progress and Poverty (1879), she encountered his conviction that ‘the equal right of all men to use the land is as clear as their equal right to breathe the air – it is a right proclaimed by the fact of their existence’.
Travelling around America in the 1870s, George had witnessed persistent destitution amid growing wealth, and he believed it was largely the inequity of land ownership that bound these two forces – poverty and progress – together. So instead of following Twain by encouraging his fellow citizens to buy land, he called on the state to tax it. On what grounds? Because much of land’s value comes not from what is built on the plot but from nature’s gift of water or minerals that might lie beneath its surface, or from the communally created value of its surroundings: nearby roads and railways; a thriving economy, a safe neighbourhood; good local schools and hospitals. And he argued that the tax receipts should be invested on behalf of all.
Determined to prove the merit of George’s proposal, Magie invented and in 1904 patented what she called the Landlord’s Game. Laid out on the board as a circuit (which was a novelty at the time), it was populated with streets and landmarks for sale. The key innovation of her game, however, lay in the two sets of rules that she wrote for playing it.
Under the ‘Prosperity’ set of rules, every player gained each time someone acquired a new property (designed to reflect George’s policy of taxing the value of land), and the game was won (by all!) when the player who had started out with the least money had doubled it. Under the ‘Monopolist’ set of rules, in contrast, players got ahead by acquiring properties and collecting rent from all those who were unfortunate enough to land there – and whoever managed to bankrupt the rest emerged as the sole winner (sound a little familiar?).
The purpose of the dual sets of rules, said Magie, was for players to experience a ‘practical demonstration of the present system of land grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences’ and hence to understand how different approaches to property ownership can lead to vastly different social outcomes. ‘It might well have been called “The Game of Life”,’ remarked Magie, ‘as it contains all the elements of success and failure in the real world, and the object is the same as the human race in general seems to have, ie, the accumulation of wealth.’
The game was soon a hit among Left-wing intellectuals, on college campuses including the Wharton School, Harvard and Columbia, and also among Quaker communities, some of which modified the rules and redrew the board with street names from Atlantic City. Among the players of this Quaker adaptation was an unemployed man called Charles Darrow, who later sold such a modified version to the games company Parker Brothers as his own.
Once the game’s true origins came to light, Parker Brothers bought up Magie’s patent, but then re-launched the board game simply as Monopoly, and provided the eager public with just one set of rules: those that celebrate the triumph of one over all. Worse, they marketed it along with the claim that the game’s inventor was Darrow, who they said had dreamed it up in the 1930s, sold it to Parker Brothers, and become a millionaire. It was a rags-to-riches fabrication that ironically exemplified Monopoly’s implicit values: chase wealth and crush your opponents if you want to come out on top.
So next time someone invites you to join a game of Monopoly, here’s a thought. As you set out piles for the Chance and Community Chest cards, establish a third pile for Land-Value Tax, to which every property owner must contribute each time they charge rent to a fellow player. How high should that land tax be? And how should the resulting tax receipts be distributed? Such questions will no doubt lead to fiery debate around the Monopoly board – but then that is exactly what Magie had always hoped for.
This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, 10 April 2019
This semester, Philippa Jackson - a guest lecturer for my undergraduate unit, Fashion and Society - introduced me to the term “slit aesthetic” for the first time. The term was coined by Maureen Turim in her article ‘Fashion Shapes: Film, the Fashion Industry, and the Image of Women’. Turim describes the slit aesthetic as being a gap in women’s clothing that reveals the wearer’s skin, in particular the “neck, shoulders, back and breasts” (1983). While Turim’s discussion focuses on the representation of female actors in a specific moment in Hollywood film history, I would like to take up her brief discussion on desire and how this relates to the work of Roland Barthes in his own analysis of desire, wherein he uses a similar example.
In The Pleasure of the Text  Barthes alludes to the arousing nature of what is not visible when he says: “Is not the most erotic portion of the body where the garment gapes?” (1975, p.9). He provides an example of the gap between the end of a woman’s sleeve and the top of her glove, revealing a tiny glimpse of her wrist.
He describes this process as “the staging of an appearance-as-disappearance” and explains how an opening reveals something that attracts the subject by creating a kind of window (ibid.). This offers a taste and yet conceals so much more. An obvious contemporary example would be the flash of a woman’s leg appearing through the split of a dress. What is conceals alludes to a promise. This may not be ‘a promise’ in the vernacular sense of the word, but it is not totally dissimilar: what is concealed, though not visible, is suggested and it is the desire that this instils in the subject, and the subsequent response, that we can describe as jouissance.
In terms of the slit aesthetic, Turim sees the desire as being oriented in the male gaze, but she also explains that this gaze becomes fetishistic in that in these instances the film’s editing appears as a “cutting back and forth between the gazing male and the female body he looks at” (1983). This fetishisation then turns this slice of flesh into an object which, hence, stands in for the whole female. However, Barthes’ interpretation is different. Barthes explains how it is the “seam” which is erotic (1975, pp.7-8). It is the boundary, the join, the incision that disrupts normal textual flow and opens up a domain of polysemy. But this space is required to remain in abeyance in order for bliss – jouissance – to remain. In other words, and as it would be for Turim’s male audience, they will never ‘have’ the female actress.
In her article 'Beyond the Jouissance Principle' Jane Gallop says: “If jouissance is celebrated as something that unsettles assumptions, it becomes ineffective when it itself settles into an assumption.” (1984, p.112). The condition of the space of bliss relies on the lack of conjecture. Assumptions, knowledge of the outcome, and emotional investment in the conclusion avert jouissance. Bliss continues until the subject 'knows'.
In A Lover’s Discourse  Barthes explains how the lover’s absence can be manipulated. He describes it as an “active practice” (1979, p.16) in which the not knowing of the whereabouts of one’s lover creates doubts and desires: “This staging of language postpones the other’s death” (ibid.). Barthes explains that “to manipulate absence is to extend this interval, to delay as long as possible the moment when the other might topple sharply from absence into death.” (ibid.).
While, Turim’s example sees the wearer of the slit aesthetic as representing the “phallic woman” (1983), Barthes sees that gap as jouissance and plays with the space in which the lover has not yet returned by extending the interval: when will the lover return or might it be that the lover never returns…
Barthes, Roland. 1975. The Pleasure of the Text. Trans. by Richard Miller (New York: Hill and Wang).
Barthes, Roland. 1979. A Lover’s Discourse. Trans. by Richard Howard (London: Jonathan Cape).
Gallop, Jane, ‘Beyond the Jouissance Principle’, Representations, 7, (Summer, 1984) pp. 110-115.
Turim, Maureen, ‘Fashion Shapes: Film, the Fashion Industry, and the Image of Women’, Socialist Review, 71 (13), (Radical Society Ltd, 1983) pp. 78-96.