I hadn’t had a proper conversation with the psychogeographer for a while because, as she said, “I have been deeply mired in the academic machinations of my viva”. But yesterday we discussed the pros and cons of the Grand Départ in Yorkshire. She apparently had reservations, the same as those she’d had over the London Olympics when she wrote ‘The Perturbed Psychogeographer: Contemplating Olympic Space, the Shard and Architectural Phalluses in General’. I asked her to summarise, for a laygerbil, what these reservations were. She explained she was torn between the community aspect it would hopefully encourage and the neoliberal co-opting of it by capital.
I suggested that we seek out, in our local area, contributions and acknowledgements to community spirit as it related to the Grand Départ and also look for signs of capital appropriation in Horsforth at the same time. She thought a semiology of the signs would be useful and advised we take a Barthesian view of the locale, entitling our blog by appropriating Roland Barthes' book titles.
We set off up Broadgate Lane where the only sign of the Grand Départ was the use of a yellow T-shirt on a letting agent’s sign, but the psychogeographer couldn’t reach it in order to put up her poster, so we moved on while she mumbled something about the preposterous connection between cycling livery and house rentals. By the time we had almost hit Town Street, 15 minutes into our walk, I suggested that maybe the Grand Départ had departed or perhaps had never even arrived in the first place. Then we saw out first piece of bikeage. This cycle was attached to the railings outside the Retirement Home:
In the High Street itself the best contribution was at the community café, where there were two decorated bikes.
In response to my witty remark about wanting ketchup with my Grand Départ, the psychogeographer collected her posters and blue tack and marched off down the road in search of more signs. I shouted after her “There appears to be some prejudice directed at gerbils here! Why are all the T-shirts only made for cats?”. When I caught up with her I asked: “In what cultural epoch can you situate this breakdown of community and why?”. She replied that in poststructural theory a French guy called Lyotard wrote The Postmodern Condition where he discusses the decline of grand narratives, which she believed was part of the glue that held people together, rightly or wrongly. I looked up postmodernism on my phone. A book called Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism appeared by someone called Jameson. I then understood her interest in postmodernism.
It wasn’t until we were getting towards the other end of the High Street that more signs appeared. In the toy shop window there were lots of mini yellow T-shirts, but apparently still none small enough for a gerbil. I asked the psychogeographer why she liked Barthes. She said that despite the fact that capitalism mobilises individuals through dominant signs, via anti-production and even through their very consciousness, she liked the way Barthes enabled meaning to be plural. She then started rambling about his Mythologies, quoting vast paragraphs. I managed to jot down: “But there always remains, around the final meaning, a halo of virtualities where other possible meanings are floating: the meaning can almost always be interpreted.”
The florists opposite had made an effort, but we had pretty much reached the end of the High Street by then. I asked the psychogeographer if we should go home and she suggested heading for Horsforth’s other High Street, across the Ring Road. So off we set, past the cycle shop, Holyspokes, and towards New Road Side as she continued to lecture me on the tensions between what she said were molar power structures and local, personal, rhizomatic molecular networks…
Please click here for part 2 of this Keilleresque blog: The Pleasure of the Gerbil