Saturday, 8 May 2021

Psychogeography News - May 2021


Hello Folks. I hope you are enjoying the resurrected news. This is May's selection. I've got quite a few this month, so I am going to do my best to categorise them. I apologise if it is a bit The Guardian heavy!


This month in architecture we have a discussion in Domus on Brutalism and post-punk, a connection I wouldn’t have made myself, even though I am a fan of both. There is some more news on Modernist architecture in The Guardian on the post-war architecture of Derby’s Assembly Rooms (and the hope to save them from the bulldozers), and another general discussion on Brutalist architecture which includes useful links to other sources.

Images and Films

The Guardian has an article on somebody who (probably doesn’t even realise he is a psychogeographer) and photographs social distancing signs. This artists fills potholes and manhole covers in beautiful mosaics and this photographer takes images of America by streetlight. The last one in this section is a super 3 min film of an urban commute by Hiroshi Kondo.

Walking and Psychogeography

Here you can read about the proposed green walks in London. This article will provide you with ten Great British walking trails and here is an article about getting lost in a new place.

Outside of the UK

And finally, an article on walking around Menorca during lockdown and a very good article on the Swedish architect Sigurd Lerewentz in The Wallpaper.

Friday, 2 April 2021

Psychogeography News - April 2021


After a hiatus of a few years, I have decided to attempt to resurrect the psychogeography news for this blog. I used to do it monthly, prior to that I did it via a mailing list. Anyway, it seems like I stopped it in November 2016, so that’s over 4 years! Anyway, I am going to give it another go. The news will contain anything related to: walking, the city, urban space, landscape, public art, architecture, space-related activism, and so on – so whatever loosely comes under the rubric of ‘psychogeography’. I hope you find it interesting:

The Guardian: A joyless trudge? No, thanks: why I am utterly sick of ‘going for a walk’

An entertainingly cynical, article by a Canadian living in the UK during lockdown. It covers anything from dodgy footwear to Margaret Thatcher. Click here for full article.

The Claude Glass Revolutionized the Way People Saw Landscape

This is a really interesting academic, short, article about how a little mirror, named after the landscape artist Claude Lorrain, changed the way people viewed the landscape. For those Situationists amongst you, Lorrain was of interest to them due to his depictions of ruins (“the charms of the ruins”). The Situationists had a problem with the nostalgia engendered by images of ruins (and ruins themselves) and actually used one of Lorrain’s paintings in one of their maps. Click here for the article.

The Guardian: Is that a unicorn? No it’s a teenager taking a hike in the great outdoors.

This is about the Ramblers attempts to get young people out and about (and bumbling) in Britain’s wide open spaces. Includes some research and stats, for those who are interested in that kind of thing. Full article here.

Revisiting the Concrete Architecture of Belgian Icon Juliaan Lampens

I’m a big fan of brutalist architecture (and even included a large section on the work of Chamberlin, Powell and Bon in my thesis). I’m not an expert, though, and hadn’t heard of this chappy. An interesting article, with some nice images, here in The Wallpaper.

French Artist Unveils New Optical Illusion Installation in Italy

This uncanny installation appears on the façade of the Pallazo Strozzi in Florence. It’s really fabulous and must be super to see in person. It reminds me of the opening to Civilization and its Discontents where Freud talks about how memory, and the unconscious, has the effect of forgetting. Freud uses a beautiful analogy of the ancient city of Rome to help him explain how the unconscious works (click here if you’d like to read my take on that). Click here for some images of the installation.

Building a Feminist City

This editorial, discussing the current focus on women’s safety in public space following Sarah Everard’s death, takes its starting point as Haussmann’s Paris (very Situationist). Click here to read the article in The Guardian.

Mouse Hole Update

A Really cute one to finish on. This from a blog entitled ‘Walks Between the Commons: American mom living in London’. It’s about a little mouse hole installation that local people decorate and offer gifts up to the pretend mice that live there, such as Christmas cards. It’s, basically, a sweet little bit of guerrilla urban creativity. Click here for the images.

Saturday, 6 March 2021

Online Cultural Theory Lectures by Doctor Hat

Below is a series of lectures available on YouTube which all took place in the famous Freud Disco Study in 2016. The lectures are predominantly of a cultural theory and psychogeography nature and cover areas such as: subjectivity, semiology, psychoanalysis, cartography, urban walking, ideology, etc. You can view an introduction here or click on the links below to take you to more information and to the online lecture itself:

Introduction to the Lecture Series
Are You Interpellated?
What is Myth?
What Does the Map Represent?

Introduction to the Lecture Series

Are You Interpellated?

Abstract: A lecture on the theory of ideology by Louis Althusser. By providing examples from popular culture and psychogeography, this lecture explores the concept of interpellation as discussed by Althusser in 'Ideology and the Ideological State Apparatuses'.

Audience: Undergraduate students in the area of cultural studies, psychogeography, politics, psychology, media and philosophy. Anyone interested in: neo-Marxist approaches, how ideology operates on individuals and how subjectivity is socio-politically formed.

What’s covered: ideology, interpellation, structuralism, the State, civic life, the family, subjectivity, psychogeography, popular culture (film).

What is Myth?

Abstract: A lecture on Roland Barthes’ Mythologies. Concentrating on his essay ‘Myth Today’, this lecture introduces Barthes’ second-order semiological system and demonstrates how to carry out a semiological analysis.

Audience: Undergraduate students in the area of cultural studies, literature, media and philosophy. Anyone interested in advertising, language or literature.

What’s covered: semiotics, language, myth, ideology, popular culture, structuralism.

What Does the Map Represent

Abstract: A lecture on mapping that critiques the modernist cartographic project. Themes explored are: the centred subject, inside/outside, map/territory and reality versus representation. This lecture compares the traditional analysis of maps with the psychoanalytical approach to dream analysis.

Audience: Undergraduate students in the area of cultural studies, cartography, postmodern geography, history and psychoanalysis. Anyone interested in maps in general.

What’s covered: cartography, ideology, dream analysis, representation, praxis, Sigmund Freud, Claudio Minca, world fairs.

Monday, 28 December 2020

The Alternative Conclusion to Walking Inside Out


A few weeks ago I posted the 'official' version of the conclusion of Walking Inside Out: Contemporary British Psychogeography (Rowman and Littlefield International 2015). However, if you would like a copy of the first version, the one that wasn't published, you can get a copy here. It deals specifically with the detractors of psychogeography. For those of you who don't want to download and read the full alternative conclusion, below is an extract:

Conclusion: Psychogeography PLC

by Tina Richardson

So as to keep up-to-date with any current media-related references to psychogeography, from time to time I type into my search engine ‘psychogeography’ followed by the month and year. In April 2014 I did the same and an article in the The Guardian paired psychogeography with the name of a Britpop singer: ‘Damon Albarn and the Heavy Seas Review – Rich in Personal Psychogeography’ (2014). If Coverley thought ‘the game was up’ following Self’s articles in The Independent, I wonder what this says about psychogeography today? Even though it could be easy to be cynical about its current populist and mutable use, this is not a particularly constructive approach to take towards psychogeography. Rather than seeing it as a co-opting of the term, or an aligning of some individuals to something ‘trendy’ that we feel they have little connection to, we might see this as a compliment.

In the introduction I mentioned how Sinclair has often been placed in the position of defender of the field of psychogeography. Psychogeography has plenty of detractors and, while this could be seen as a negative reflection of it, I prefer to see it as promoting valuable discussion. It also enables an academic engagement with critics who are often outside academia. While I do not see myself as the current ‘union rep’ of psychogeography, I would like to look at some of the comments by some critics and work through the issues they have raised, since they are a reflection of what individuals think about psychogeography in Britain today and are, therefore, part of the project at hand.

Sinclair has expressed his own concerns about the term, however these are often decontextualized by others into snappy quotes and at times represent a specific strand of psychogeography that he may be commenting on, or even another period of time in its development. For instance his references to it being a ‘franchise’ in the The Fortean Times are referring to an aspect of 1990s psychogeography: “There was a kind of strategy to this rebranding, I was quite happy to run with it as a franchise, as a way of talking about doing the things I'd always done and providing a useful description that could be discussed in public. It became a bit of a monster on the back of that” (Pilkington and Baker 2002, 3). [cont...] Please, click here for the full conclusion.

Friday, 4 December 2020

Christmas Alone? Six Tips and a Brilliant Mnemonic!

Please note: I wrote/posted this back in 2016, but am reposting it as I think it may be even more pertinent this year!

Your Singleton Xmas - Help is at Hand

I am becoming an expert at spending Xmas on my own, having spent 7 out of the last 11 alone, so I feel pretty well qualified to add my ideas to those available online. This blog is not directed at the elderly (there are many of those posts and articles already), but rather more to those who out of choice, because of 'family problems', geographical incompatibility or lack of opportunity spend Xmas on their own. It is also not about what to do to prevent yourself being alone, as this is also well covered elsewhere.

I spent my first Xmas on my own in 2006 and it was infinitely better than the previous one in 2005. 2006 was actually the best Xmas in a long time. While the Singleton Xmases since then have varied from 'OK' to 'good', I have developed a strategy over time, which I continue to work on and improve.

Here are my tips, framed in a mnemonic which is also a tip in its own right: FRIDGE!

If you have no family, are estranged from them, or they live in another part of the world, make your own family! Your family can consist of just you. At least you like ‘you’, you know what ‘you’ like, and you will be nice to ‘you’. If you are lucky enough to have a bobbins (for ‘bobbins’ read ‘pet’) then you are very fortunate as they are your family. Wrap a present from your bobbins to yourself and vice versa. Have a little present opening ceremony where they enjoy the wrapping paper much more than the present you bought them, and you really enjoy the present they gave you because you helped them buy it. If, like me, you got their present from them to you in September, then you may even be lucky enough to have forgotten what it was and it will still be a surprise on Xmas day! Jean-Paul, the existential degu, bought me a book on Soviet Bus Stops this year, but it took me a while to remember!

Follow old rituals and create new ones. Xmas is all about rituals: the rituals of the religious aspect of Christmas (if you follow a Christian-based religion), cultural rituals, rituals from your childhood, and so on. If some of the rituals from childhood are problematic, then drop them. If they don’t work this year, then don’t do them again. But, you can create new ones, and if they work they can become part of your 'Singleton Xmas' if you wish to employ them again in the future. I dress as if I am spending Xmas with others, I always have a Snowball while I’m putting my slap on, I put carols on on the radio first thing, and I always have melon for breakfast!

Indulge yourself. You have all the time to do this – one full 24 hr period at least. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. You can make crafty things for yourself (e.g. crackers), or make some foodstuffs (e.g. mince pies or delicious pickles). Make yourself a ‘proper’ Xmas meal and serve with a cracker and Xmas serviette. Get some gorgeous food in – stuff that you wouldn’t buy every day – such as truckles (a recent ritual I have added to my list). I like them as ‘objects’ and I also like their waxy covering. You can buy a few truckles quite cheaply. Much better than buying a mahoosive cheese selection and making yourself ill through gorging.

This is a tricky one. I have tried over-drinking and under-drinking and can tell you, quite honestly, that under-drinking is better when you are on your own. Also, you will be more likely to actually remember the day itself. Either pace yourself (one ‘alcoholic’ followed by one ‘soft’) or stop drinking after a certain time. My strategy is to not start before 11.oo and to stop drinking when I start eating my Xmas lunch. I also then never get a hangover and can do it all over again on Boxing Day! Don’t forget to treat yourself to something nice that you don’t have often, so that it becomes a treat and part of your new ritual.

We have already covered giving to yourself and your bobbins in terms of gifts. But I also mean here ‘forgiving’. I don’t mean you have to forgive others, although it may be the case and may be helpful to you (although it may not be). What I mean is be kind to yourself. Just because you are on your own doesn’t mean you are: a ‘bad’ person, are unworthy, are friendless or are unloved. It is just one day and you can make it anything from tolerable to great by being kind to yourself.

I do think effort is one of the most important things in my top tips, even though it is at the bottom of the list. I always get up early. I love the silence early on Xmas day, it reminds me of Charlton Heston in The Omega Man: it’s like the world ended overnight and you are the only one alive. Joking apart, languishing in bed will just put off the inevitable. Best get up early and prepare the veggies and then there is time to watch one of your favourite films or a boxset. White Christmas has been on my list previously, but this year I am going to watch Doctor Doolittle and West Side Story.

Well, I hope this has been helpful, folks. Over and out, and good luck on your Singleton Xmas.

If in doubt, don’t forget: FRIDGE!

Childline: 0800 1111
Samaritans: 116 123
Domestic Violence Hotline: 0808 2000 247
Mind: 0300 123 3393
Age UK: 0800 169 6565
RSPCA: 0300 1234 999

I would just like to add that I have very kind friends who I have spent Xmas with in this time-frame and which I really enjoyed. I also spent a great Xmas with a friend at my home in 2014.

Please feel free to comment.

Saturday, 28 November 2020

Merlin Coverley's 'Hauntology'


Merlin Coverley's latest book - Hauntology: Ghosts of Futures Past - has just been published by Oldcastle Books (2020), and I am lucky enough to have a review copy. This isn't going to be a 'traditional' review. Rather more, in providing some extracts and discussion, I am going to highlight a couple of my favourite theories from the book. If you would like a straightforward review, you can go to The Indiependent or Horrified Magazine, but I will also include the blurb from the back cover, so that you get an overview of this non-fiction text and can see where the theories I will be discussing fit into the overall book. I just want to add, though, that despite the fact I am looking at two of the key theories elucidated in the book, this is a book for anyone interested in: the past, the occult, psychogeographical literature, popular culture, ghost stories, folk horror, nostalgia, and so on, and not just for academics:

Ghosts and spectres, the eerie and the occult. Why is contemporary culture so preoccupied by the supernatural, so captivated by the revenants of an earlier age, so haunted? The concept of Hauntology has evolved since first emerging in the 1990s, and has now entered the cultural mainstream as a shorthand for our new-found obsession with the recent past. But where does this term come from and what exactly does it mean?

This book seeks to answer these questions by examining the history of our fascination with the uncanny from the golden age of the Victorian ghost story to the present day. From Dickens to Derrida, MR James to Mark Fisher; from the rise of Spiritualism to the folk horror revival, Hauntology traces our continuing engagement with these esoteric ideas. Moving between the literary and the theoretical, the visual and the political, Hauntology explores our nostalgia for the cultural artefacts of a past from which we seem unable to break free.

DERRIDA'S HAUNTOLOGY: Utopian Futures and Enduring Spirits

Coverley's opening launches with a proposed answer to the question above in regard to our fascination with the past. He says that our "preoccup[ation]...can be found through the examination of what one critic has described recently as 'perhaps the most important, political-philosophical concept we have right now': hauntology''. Quoting Thomas Wyman, here, Coverley then leads us to the inventor of that theory, Jacques Derrida, explaining its explication through Derrida's text The Spectres of Marx (1993). While the theory of hauntology was formulated by Derrida as a way of examining the enduring nature of Marx's work, today it has become common parlance in certain circles and is about how the past constantly reappears in our present through its various cultural manifestations, but also in regard to the political ramifications of the past and how they come back to haunt us. A perfect contemporary example of this is the populist political figurehead and the current draw, amongst many, towards more authoritarian political stances. On this point, I like the way Coverley highlights the utopian aspect of hauntology when he states: "Derrida used hauntology, his science of ghosts, to demonstrate that...the spectre of Marx, like all ghosts which have yet to be laid to rest, would return, repeatedly, disrupting the present and continuing to remind us of another possible future". Something we should all hope for after the 2020 we have had, which has both politically and medically invoked the ghosts of the past!

Coverley also evokes - actually under the rubric of hauntology, he rather invokes - Mark Fisher's work (see Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology & Lost Futures) in regard to his discussion on "temporal currents". For Fisher, hauntology operates when phenomenon that is "not yet" present "haunts the present from the future". It is also the case that something that "no longer" exists "haunts the present from the past". Both these spectres are evident in the present via "repetition or anticipation". Coverley explains that this "ghost...comes from the past to manifest itself in the present and yet...belongs to neither". This is where Derrida's interest in the ghost as a deconstructive mechanism becomes apparent, the spectre being both "absent and present". Later in the book, Coverley revisits Derrida's hauntology in more depth by examining the paradox functioning in these types of binary oppositions - e.g. absence/presence - that intrigued Derrida so much. Coverley says the ghost is "both inside and outside of time, both beyond and of history" and one of the themes that recurs in his discussion of Derrida's hauntology is 'the return', which leads me neatly on to a discussion of the uncanny in regard to Coverley's book.

FREUD'S UNCANNY: The Return of the Father

For Freud the uncanny (The Uncanny 1899) is something which - to put very simply - is both familiar and unfamiliar, homely and unhomely (heimlich and unheimlich in the German). Because of its definition, it is clear why Derrida was so interested in Freud's uncanny: there is a contradiction at the heart of its very being. For Coverley (and he does allude to the knottiness of the term), the uncanny is used in the sense that it represents for Freud "death, dead bodies, revenants, spirits and ghosts" (Freud's words). Coverley explains that Freud is uncomfortable with using the language of the spectre due to his academic standing. However, we can see how the ghost (in the form of the returning 'thing', the repressed) is actually a fundamental part of psychoanalysis, as both a phenomena located in the unconscious and in terms of the psychoanalytic process itself: returning, repeating, and so on. Whether it is the compulsion to repeat (the returning trauma) or the revisiting of that trauma within the consulting room of the psychoanalyst. Coverley explains: "the repetition and doubling [are] to be found at the heart of Freud's concept [and] are replayed through the returns the re-enactments of the historical past". 

The section that follows the above in Coverley's book takes a look at Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression (Derrida 1995), in relation to literature. For those literature boffins who read this blog, Coverley discusses M R James, Robert McFarlane and H P Lovecraft in this section. I think this is a neat inclusion of Archive Fever here by Coverley, where he examines the death drive in relation to the literature he discusses. But I would also like to add to that the ghosts that appear at the outset of Archive Fever, Derrida's inspiration for the book, and there are two. In Archive Fever Derrida writes of how the private event of Freud’s circumcision becomes public when its trace becomes part of the archive which is the Freud Museum. An inscription appears in the archive in the form of a bible that Freud’s father has re-covered in new leather and re-gifts to him. Freud's father presents it to his son on his birthday. For Derrida this private inscription is both the note from Freud’s father, and Freud’s circumcision. I would argue, too, that both these (in their ghostly manifestation) are ever-present, ever-absent...spectres...the haunting of which appear in the trace that is left by what was...

You can order Coverley's book here!

I have also written about the uncanny on this blog before (in relation to psychogeography), so if you are interested, click on the following:

Taking an Urban Walk With Freud

Uncanny Effects and Perambulatory Weirdness

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Conclusion of Walking Inside Out

When I author-edited Walking Inside Out: Contemporary British Psychogeography (Rowman and Littlefield International 2015) back in 2014, I wrote two conclusions. The first one was, in the most part, a reply to the critics of psychogeography. Below is an extract from the second draft, the one that was published (please click here to download the whole chapter), which I am making available for the first time. I will post the original draft in the next blog post. 

Conclusion: The New Psychogeography

Tina Richardson

Resurgence and Revival

In an interview in Fortean Times in 2002, Sinclair was asked what his involvement was in the revival of psychogeography during the 1990s, he replied: “In a classic sense I don’t think I had anything to do with it. But the whole term has been dusted down and reinvented and re-used by people like Stewart Home and the London Psychogeographical Association” (cited in Pilkington and Baker 2002, 3). Of this period in psychogeography, Sinclair explains that “there was a kind of strategy to this rebranding, I was quite happy to run with it as a franchise, as a way of talking about doing the things I'd always done and providing a useful description that could be discussed in public. It became a bit of a monster on the back of that” (ibid.). He goes on to explain that by the time he was using the term it was “more like a psychotic geographer…a raging bull journey against the energies of the city” (ibid.).

At the point of writing this conclusion, well over ten years on from Sinclair’s comment above, what has psychogeography become in the second decade into the 21st century? And, is the current resurgence just a continuation of the one Sinclair mentions (the one of the London Psychogeographical Association), or has it morphed into something else?[i] James D. Sidaway says of human geography and its related fields that “increasing attention is being dedicated to the social relations of emotion and action under the label of ‘affect’” (2009, 1092). If there is a current focus on the affective response to space then this could be connected to what is called placiality (Edward Casey). Postmodern space has become so complex in its palimpsest form that our reaction to it has reached a kind of critical mass whereby we feel compelled to attempt to articulate our response to the terrain. This is also reflected in cultural theory on space/place of the late 20th century (such as that of Henri Lefebvre and Gaston Bachelard), as discussed by Stephen Hardy in ‘Placiality: The Renewal of the Significance of Place in Modern Cultural Theory’ (2000). In 1984 Michel Foucault stated that “[t]he present epoch will perhaps be above all the epoch of space” (2001, 237), but of today’s epoch we can confidently say that it is one of ‘place’. The concept of place is now finding its way into popular/everyday vocabulary. In December 2014 a BBC Radio 4 programme entitled Sense of Place was broadcast. It included an interview with Joanne Parker who, on the concept of place, said: “one person’s place is very much another person’s space…landscape is first and foremost a way of creating belongingness and tying us together” (2014).

Writing at the same time as Sidaway, Bonnett says that “British psychogeography should be understood as a site of struggle over the politics of loss within radical imagination” (2009, 46). Our desire to not only explore the social history of a particular space, but also to express it in a personal and affective way that responds to the aesthetics of that place as it is for us, is one that comes about through description via our imagination, an individual expression which is different for everyone, in other words a psychogeographically articulated response. Bonnett says amuch broader group of people are now interested and involved in psychogeography, many of whom have no interest in the Situationists. It may be argued that this is a form of depolitization or that psychogeography has outgrown the limited and exclusionary world of the revolutionary avant-garde” (2013). If this is the case, then the sharing of psychogeographical accounts from whatever perspective (activist or otherwise) have been enabled through contemporary technology, with websites, blogs, social networking and aided by new ‘geo apps’.

Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have granted individuals access to data and aided them in creating representations of space/place in a totally different way, as the hobby of geocaching attests to (geocaching involves individuals locating secreted packages, with clues to their location loaded online, via GPS). Even navigating the internet itself has been compared to exploring urban space (see ‘Psychogeography, Détournement, Cyberspace’ by Amy J. Elias [2010]).[ii] Often appearing under the umbrella of neogeography, the use of the internet and mobile technologies opens up space for groups and individuals and enables them to readily share the products of their walks. For example, OpenStreetMap is open source software by the OpenStreetMap Foundation and is a collaboration by its contributors providing free geographical data and mapping. Anyone can contribute by signing-up online. The data of routes walked can be picked up by using GPS software on a smartphone, then made into maps and freely shared.[iii]

This digital and satellite way of creating maps enables a synthesis with the older peripatetic method of simply talking and writing about walks. It allows the psychogeographer to include more tools for tracking their walks, presenting their information and making it available for others to access. These maps and forms of data collection show the infinite possibility of cartographies and ways for walkers to present personal and qualitative information. They offer a large degree of control of the mapping process to the user/cartographer. The open source software that is often used for these types of collaborations to a large extent disengages the data from capitalist production and, hence, provides more freedom of expression, production and distribution. This enables their use in explorations of space, creating mapping-oriented art for pleasure or for a variety of community-based projects.

The current resurgence in walking has coincided with a renewed interest in cartography encouraged by the availability of digital tools. While these tools are often used by non-specialist users in community and arts-based projects, the contemporary psychogeographer is at once embracing and critical of the new technology, preferring to use it as one tool amongst many for creating, recording and producing output from the dérive.

In The View From the Train: Cities and Other Landscapes (2013) Keiller says that the current revival in the UK is very much Situationist oriented and is connected to the desire to explore the urban landscape with tools such as the dérive (2013, 133). While this seems to counter what Bonnet says above, this is may be more to do with a matter of perspective. Both seem to be occurring, separately and simultaneously. The objectives for walking are over-determined. Some groups and individuals are interested in the process and practice of the dérive-type walk and are not politically-oriented. Others are attempting an activist pursuit, on differing scales. And some, even though they are not overtly being interventionist, nevertheless will be intervening in the space as a side-effect of what their other intentions might be.

[i] In an online article in June 2014 on The Quietus ‘‘A Living Memory’: Iain Sinclair on Life at 70’ describes the term ‘psychogeography’ as having “threatened to become an albatross around his neck” (Burrows 2014).

[ii] The flexibility of psychogeography enables it to be extended into many field, such as tourism, as can be seen in Charles McIntyres book Tourism and Retail: The Psychogeography of Liminal Consumption (2012).

[iii] For those who are interested in technology and its uses in psychogeography, the geographer and psychogeographer Tim Waters provides examples of his own work in this field on his blog