Thursday, 17 September 2009

Revealing Objects

In an article entitled 'A world you never knew existed', part of a series called 'Secret Britain' in The Guardian newspaper, Iain Sinclair discussed his process of psychogeography and how this helps reveal a hidden Britain. As previously mentioned, the dérives on campus were organised around the element of chance and directed us to locations which otherwise we would remain ignorant of: “These sites, come upon by accident, prick our imagination, provoke reverie.” (Sinclair 2009: 5). Sinclair explains how it is only at the point of near extinction that some buildings become visible to us for the first time (ibid.).

On the University of Leeds walks, one of the focuses of interest on The White Horseman Dérive was the space of a building that was no longer there, and which had in its place a steel frame, awaiting the materials that would then enable it to manifest itself as the new Charles Morris Hall in 2010. As Sinclair succinctly states: “When you don't see it, it is still there. And when you do, it is on the point of disappearance.” (ibid.). Félix Guattari explains that through its use of a system of signs “the capitalist Signifier, as simulacrum of imaginary power, has the job of overcoding all the other Universes of value.” (1995: 105). At the university, the “capitalist Signifier”, in the form of excellence, rewrites other systems of value. It does this by dampening the effects of anything that threatens it, and by reproducing those values and effects it finds beneficial to its task.

Sinclair explains how the most hackneyed of objects appear intriguing when examined from a new perspective (2009: 6), and this has been the case on the dérives carried out on the University of Leeds campus:
It is astonishing how the multitude of explorers, out there in the British landscape, bring back evidence of worlds within worlds. The smallest entries in the gazetteer of personal treasures plays its part in forming a coherent whole, a fiction of disappearance and restitution. (ibid.).

The found souvenirs from the walks, have acted not only as names for the dérives, but also have been evidence of a history: on one walk, The Lea Farm Drive Dérive, the found souvenir was a bus ticket which contained the data of someone's journey. To those on the walk, all that remained of the person and/or their journey, was the ticket which was left as a trace of that event: they had taken a journey to/from Lea Farm Drive in Seacroft, Leeds.

The objects that form the urban environment, often appearing as disparate elements in space, can become re-connected when expressed in a new subjectivity. This can be seen in how the dérives actually function. For example, in the White Horseman Dérive the method of randomness for finding stopping points was by throwing dice and attributing the numbers that came up to the numbers of buildings on the standard university map. By following the route decided by the dice this created a new relationship for these buildings; the buildings became part of a new process. The output of the dérives became an expression of this, produced by a specific aesthetic response from those involved, one not organised by conventional power structures.

Guattari, Félix. 1995. Chaosmosis: An ethico-aesthetic paradigm, trans. by Paul Bains and Julian Pefanis (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press).
Sinclair, Iain. 'A world you never new', 'Secret Britain', The Guardian, April 2009, pp. 4-6.

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