Saturday, 29 August 2009


This quote appears in Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics (1972). The use of the word 'anti-production' pre-dates the definition developed by Deleuze and Guattari together in their Capitalism and Schizophrenia series:
It is impossible to separate the production of any consumer commodity from the institution that supports that production. The same can be said of teaching, training, research, etc. The State machine and the machine of repression produce anti-production, that is to say signifiers that exist to block and prevent the emergence of any subjective process [...]. (1984: 34).

In regards to the university, the “consumer commodity” would be considered the knowledge that is being 'sold' to the student and which is produced at the end of a course in the form of awarding a degree which can be exchanged for a job, ideally one of capitalist-orientation. It is even the case that the student could be conceived of as the commodity, rather than the knowledge gained which appears in the form of the degree. Guattari is saying that any process that is antithetical to that of the capitalist project will be prevented from emerging (as much as is possible). The signs that capitalism creates, discourage any singular processes of individuation and attempt to reroute subjective desires back into capitalist production: this is anti-production. Although I am reluctant to use dialectical terms like outside/inside when discussing post-structuralist themes, it appears from this definition that anti-production is a process instigated outside the individual, by capitalism.

In the work that Deleuze and Guattari carried out together, anti-production represents a moment in production that occurs as a result of primal repression. For them anti-production appears to be autonomous but is not: it operates alongside production but is liable to being rerouted into the dominant productive processes and becoming recoded into the forms of representation used by that system. This definition, takes the form of an internal process that can become hi-jacked by capitalism.

(I would welcome any feedback from Deleuze and Guattari experts)

Guattari, Félix. 1984. Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics, trans. by Rosemary Sheed (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books).

Monday, 24 August 2009

Walking: The Act of Moving About

The walked paths taken by human beings through space is controlled by many urban features. There are the more obvious solid objects like walls and fences that prevent people from taking certain routes through space, but not all of these barriers are solid: they might simply exist in the form of a notice stating 'No Entry'. But, often space is controlled in a much more subtle way. For example, the idea of 'walkways' which were popularised by architects in the 1960s, especially in regards to university space. Walkways were meant to join areas of the campus together and also encourage students to 'bump into each other'. Even though this seems like an community-spirited idea, it has the function of controlling space in such a way that students are discouraged from taking other routes.

Merlin Coverley explains that it is only by challenging assumed routes and investigating the unnoticed and dismissed areas, that one can get any real sense of what exists behind the surface of what appears as the everyday (2006 : 12-13). The students, academics and staff of the university move across the campus surface on established well-worn paths. Individuals tend to follow the same routes, as much for expedience as anything else. It is extremely unlikely that an undergraduate student attending a three year course would cover the paths that appear on the university pedestrian route map in the time they are at the university, let alone any routes that do not appear. As individuals in a busy postmodern world, we need to have an actual reason to go somewhere in order to see to see a new space; we are unlikely to wander, just for the sake of it. There could be many reasons for this, the discussion of which could make for a project in its own right. However, 'cheap' cars and a culture that does not encourage walking, do not help. Previous generations in Britain (and other cultures) walked most of the time. For example, in the 1960s it was considered perfectly acceptable to allow your children to walk to school, even when quite young. Multiple transport options allow people to move from place to place easily, but this also discourages the process of seeing the movement between places as an event in itself, an exploration of space. Walking enables the minutiae of the environment to be examined. Guy Debord explains how the city discourages detours because of its make-up: “cities have a psychogeographical relief, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes which strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones.” (1996: 22).

A large part of the practise behind this project has involved providing other paths around the University of Leeds campus in an effort to: challenge the established route; experience the campus in a different way; and as an attempt to probe the very fabric of the university in order to encourage it to reveal its history. This has taken the form of a number of dérives (see other blogs). Debord states: “The city is the locus of history because it is conscious of the past and also concentrates the social power that makes the historical undertaking possible.” (2005: 176). This can also be applied to the university. The past of the university exists in the very fabric of the campus, and it tells a story of power; not just in the form of administrative decisions such as those highlighted when discussing the Compulsory Purchase Orders, but also the less obvious ones about how an individual moves around the campus. This history does not only exist in historical documents; the actual campus itself can also be read in an attempt to investigate the past, and even the future.

Coverley, Merlin. 2006. Psychogeography (Harpenden: Pocket Essentials).
Debord, Guy. 1996. 'Theory of the Dérive', Theory of the Dérive and Other Situationist Writings on the City, ed. by Libero Andreotti and Xavier Costa (Barcelona: Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona). pp. 22-27.
Debord, Guy. 2005. The Society of the Spectacle (Detroit: Black and Red).

Monday, 17 August 2009

Lea Farm Drive Dérive

Wednesday August 5th 2009. We left Parkinson Court at the University of Leeds at approximately 5.00pm. Four members of the group were present. This dérive picked up where the Miniature Boulder Dérive left off, so the route had already been mapped out. The walk was concentrated at the South end of the university campus. This was our first evening dérive. The evening light, created a different ambience:

Evening Light

Below is the map of the route, including a superimposed map which was used to create the zigzag path made by the method mentioned in the previous blog.

Map and Route of Dérive

One of our stopping places was Leeds General Infirmary. We moved through the hospital, as if tourists. At one point a security guard came and asked us if we were looking for the exit. Whether he had overheard us, or was concerned about our photograph-taking, was not apparent.

We visited the Worsley Building again, which is a behemoth; truly a beautiful example of the 60s 'brutalist' architecture, very impressive. This is where the School of Dentistry is (no connection between brutalism and tooth extraction). Below is an image of the building from a short distance away, from a stopping point that took us slightly outside the perimeter of the campus:

Worsley Building

In the above image, the small triangular area on the opposite side of the road was unkempt. There was graffiti, much rubbish, cracked paving stones, broken pieces of metal sticking out of the ground. It is not clear if the property is that of the university, or the council. People seemed to use it to park their cars, in the spaces between the trees.

Much building work is being carried out on campus at the moment, the biggest project since the Chamberlin, Powell and Bon project of the 1960s. The contractors have signed up to the The Considerate Constructors Scheme, which is a code of conduct. On one of the hoardings around the new swimming pool area this tagline is displayed: “Improving the Image of Construction”. Unfortunately, this marketing move implies that it is just the 'image' of construction that needs to be improved rather than the 'reality' (although they could be considered to be one and the same, especially from the perspective of 'the spectacle').

At the end of the dérive, approximately 7.00pm, we realised that we had not picked up a found souvenir. We looked down at our feet and there was a bus ticket lying on the floor at this location:

The Bus Stop

The ticket said “Lea Farm Drive, Seacroft” on it, hence the name of the dérive. Having finished our walk we then entered the Victoria pub from the back entrance, which is a concrete ramp next to a car park in a modern building. You pass the trade bins to enter, in the semi-dark, a door and, going back in time, you emerge into Victoriana. It was rather like going through the back of the wardrobe to Narnia.

(all maps and images CC Tim Waters)

Sunday, 9 August 2009

The Naked University: The University of Leeds Campus

This map was based on walks around the university campus at the University of Leeds. The arrows are random and placed in terms of the aesthetics of the map. A key was created in order to attach song titles to the ambiances of the quarters. The cross indicates a building that is no longer there. It is in the process of being replaced with two larger ones: halls of residence.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

The Corporate University: Excellence . . . Schmexellence

Bill Readings describes 'excellence' as an empty, circular term that cannot be applied across fields; as he explains in a whole chapter dedicated to this phenomenon: “An excellent boat is not excellent by the same criteria as an excellent plane.” (1999: 24). Readings text is influenced by, amongst others, Jean-François Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (1979) and this is apparent when Readings discusses the more 'performative' aspects of excellence's measure: “[...] the question of the University is only the question of relative value-for-money, the question posed to a student who is situated entirely as a consumer [..]” (Readings 1999: 27). He also makes reference to how this consumer-orientation of the university ties in with technology, which is also a large focus of Lyotard's critique. Readings says: “All that the system requires is for activity to take place, and the empty notion of excellence refers to nothing other than the optimal input/output ration in matters of information.” (1999: 39). I would now like to turn to an example, provided by Readings, of how choices based on these performance measures actually impact urban space; I shall also examine the same phenomenon at the University of Leeds: car parking.

Readings provides a anecdotal example of how space is utilised at the University in relation to excellence. Jonathan Culler informed Readings that the University at which he worked, Cornell in New York State, had received an award for “excellence in parking” (Readings 1999: 24). While one might assume that this meant the Car Parking Services Department was efficient at getting cars in and out of the car park, and/or effectively utilising the space, so as to get as many in as possible, what it actually meant was - and I shall use Readings own words and italics here, so as to allow the irony to appear - “that they had achieved a remarkable level of efficiency in restricting motor vehicle access.” (ibid). Readings explains how the term 'excellence' has a function that enables it to work on either side of what can be considered as excellence: it becomes translatable and usable by anyone who wishes to describe excellence within any phenomenon, in whatever way they choose, by any criteria (ibid).

During the major planning drive of the University of Leeds that took place after World War II, and in particular during the 1960s, architects were employed to draw up plans to expand and develop the campus. Many architectural plans were made, alongside two large bound proposals prepared by the architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon. These were: University of Leeds Development Plan: being a report on proposals for the way buildings could be planned and laid out to accommodate both the present needs and the growth of the size of the University which may be expected during the coming decade (1960) and University of Leeds Development Plan Review 1963: being a review of three years' progress on the Development Plan published April 1960 (1963). Much of the work is oriented towards a section of the campus that is referred to as “the precinct”. One of the drawings/maps provided in the 1963 review states next to it “This drawing indicates the relationship between the new development and the existing street pattern.” (Chamberlin, Powell and Bon 1963: 167). The map of the university, as it existed at the time, has the planned buildings superimposed over the existing area, so that both are visible. The precinct area includes plans for a number of very large buildings and vast car parking zones. Part of the conclusion of the report says the following:
No effort has been spared in Leeds on the part of the City Authorities, the Hospital Board and the Council of the University to make the planned expansion possible despite the extreme difficulties inherent in the comprehensive re-planning and redevelopment of the old City sites which have hitherto rested in many ownerships and were laid out between a network of streets obsolete for any present purposes. (Chamberlin, Powell and Bon 1963: 269).

It is only when viewing the above-mentioned drawing, that it becomes apparent what the architects mean by “a network of streets obsolete for any present purposes”. The precinct in particular, but also many other areas of the proposed site, are terraced housing. This is made even more clear when looking at an aerial photo of a section of the University of Leeds campus, taken in 1953. Whole streets of terraced houses needed to be 'acquired' in order to become University property, and then be demolished so that the development plan could be put in place. This was done with the aid of Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs).

Chamberlin, Powell and Bon. 1963. University of Leeds Development Plan (Leeds: The University of Leeds).

Readings, Bill. 1999. The University in Ruins (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: Harvard University Press).

Monday, 3 August 2009

Miniature Boulder Dérive

Image: Phill Harding

Saturday August 1st 2009. We set off from the Parkinson Steps at the University of Leeds at approximately midday. Five members of the group were present. The method used for the randomness quotient of the dérive was as follows:

Take a downloaded piece of Situationist text ('The Theory of the Dérive' by Guy Debord). Using a piece of tracing paper, draw a dot over the first word on each line that begins with a 'p' (for 'psychogeography'). Make a separate note of all these words. Lay the tracing paper over a map of the University of Leeds campus. Draw a line, moving from right to left which connects those dots that lay on top of the map. Ignore the dots that are outside of the map. The end result is a zigzag line on the tracing paper that is superimposed over the map. The line becomes the route (as much as possible that it can be followed), the dots become the stopping places. Each point of stopping would then have the relevant word attached to it. Also, the photographs attached to the map, would be a picture looking towards the next point that would be visited.

As before, we had a GPS tracking device, and two cameras, one attached to the stopping points on the map, as can be seen below.
Map: Tim Waters

We began our dérive from the North edge of the university and worked towards the South, in a zigzag fashion. Within a few minutes of beginning, a 'found object' was stumbled upon, hence the name of the dérive (see image above).

This campus dérive seemed to take us to a number of maintenance-related sites on the campus, including a section of the university that had asbestos located in a room behind the geography/textiles blocks area. There was a warning on the door, but the door had been left open, and the area was not protected.

A number of redundant signs were found during the walk. Smallish, unobtrusive, plastic signs in varying primary colours, with arrows on. These were on a number of buildings in the area around the Union building. No text appeared alongside the arrows.

We also found an area that was being treated for Japanese Knotwood. It was fenced off and had been treated due to its rhizome-like root format:

Again we ended up in St. George's Field, but our route this time was different and we discovered a whole new set of phenomenonon in the cemetery. Including small memorial spots (maybe actual graves): one for a 6 month old child, going back to 1946.

We discovered a blue plaque dedicated to Sir Clifford Allbutt, who apparently invented the clinical thermometer, which replaced the previous one-foot long one that the poor ill patients had to not only negotiate into their mouths but also hold in place while it took 20 minutes for the result to appear!

We also found a very attractive building called 'The Priory', which had no connection to drug rehabilitation. Upon enquiry we found out it was a halls of residence. It is apparently a private organisation that provides student accommodation. This property On the dge of the Leeds campus charges £115/week and describes itself as “Truly Unique Student Accommodation”:

The weather was poor. We were rained on more than once. Our dérive ended at approximately 4.00pm, but in that time we had at least 2 generous breaks. At some point during the dérive we realised we had been using the words attributed to each point in reverse order. We interpreted this as part of the chance element of the walk.

We did not complete the whole of the original path assigned to the map by the above-mentioned method. However, it will be completed shortly, and will, of course, appear as a separate dérive because: a dérive is "considered as the time between two periods of sleep" (Guy Debord).

N.B. This is the blog of one member of the group, and therefore is subjective.