Tuesday, 21 July 2009

White Horseman Dérive

Saturday July 19th 2009. We set off from the Parkinson Steps at the University of Leeds at approximately 11.45am. Four members of the new Leeds Psychogeography Group were present. We had a variety of printed downloaded maps of the university campus, including a maintenance one, which was quite detailed. We also had a GPS tracking device and software that mapped our route and tagged stopping points, enabling images or sound to be uploaded and indexed at these stages. Prior to leaving for the walk we had planned our route by throwing dice to decide which buildings (all numbered on the maps) we would stop at. Co-incidentally, a number of these buildings were collected together in the Lifton Place area, which is apparent when looking at the map (see link below).


As this was our first dérive it was quite experimental. Also, the four of us did not know each other well, so not only was it an exploration of urban space, but also one of psychic space. And, the fact we were all approaching psychogeography from a different perspective made the experience very interesting, as we all made note of different aspects of the environment: aural, aesthetic and spatial.

One of the first places we visited was St George's Field. It is an old cemetery which has been preserved and appears as a kind of oasis in the, mostly, modern-structured urban landscape of the campus. The cemetery is slightly hidden inasmuch as it is not signposted and there is no dedicated pavement that runs down the north edge of it. Below is a BBC link which includes a potted history of the cemetery:


The university was quiet; even the act of trying a number of locked doors did not draw security out of their summer mothballs. We did bump into someone, not a student, who was also photographing the urban landscape of the campus. There were also workmen on a section of the university which is being redeveloped: doing some overtime, or catching up in order to meet the deadline which is contingent on them getting paid the amount they have declared in their original tender.

At one of the buildings (that came up twice when the dice was thrown), there was an exhibition from one of the Fine Art PhD students. So we took some time-out, visited the exhibition, drank some juice and chatted with the artist. The exhibition was on body hair. One of the works was a number of screens showing hair being removed, and the accompanying sounds.

At one point we discovered a lost wallet on a windowsill in a courtyard. There was nothing of importance left in the wallet, but it had been placed like a miniature triptych. An image of this can be seen at the above link. We also found a red badge containing an image of a white horseman, hence the name of the dérive. It has been decided that dérives will be named after found souvenirs on each walk.

The dérive lasted approximately 3 hours and ended when bodily functions and desires kicked in.

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