Monday, 28 November 2016

Psychogeography 101 - Geographical Imaginations Interview

In October the cultural geographer Kevin S. Fox interviewed me about psychogeography for his project Geographical Imaginations:
As an inquiry-based project, we ask questions and explore themes through dialogues with different texts and voices. Inevitably, our explorations return to simple, yet complex, questions…The main focus of the project is an hour-long radio essay program broadcast monthly from Radio Fabrik in Salzburg, Austria. In each episode we make brief expeditions into “the geographies of everything and nothing.” We reflect upon our relationships with the worlds we inhabit and co-create. 
Here’s the abstract for the interview:
In Psychogeography 101 we discuss contemporary urban exploration practices with cultural theorist and psychogeographer Tina Richardson. After tracing back to the mid-twentieth century work of the Situationist International, we outline what doing psychogeography looks like today and how it could—and should—be part of the practice of anyone seeking a better understanding of their own geographical imagination.
You can listen to a podcast of the edited interview that went out live on Radio Fabrik on 26th November, here: Episode 25: Psychogeography 101

Monday, 14 November 2016

Place-Hacking in Wonderland

Daresbury Hall in Better Times
(all other images provided by the author)

By Anonymous

There is a gap in the fence, my senses heighten. I feel fully alive as I plunge into the unknown on the other side...

Ruin porn, dereliction, decay, urban exploration and place-hacking have always interested me. It is hard to explain why, exactly, and up until this year this consisted of an occasional look at related photos and videos on the internet. I was interested enough to read the book Explore Everything by Bradley L. Garrett but was nevertheless an armchair urban explorer. I knew no-one else in the field, nor any groups in the area, and had no equipment apart from a torch, camera, and mobile phone, with no plans on the horizon.

Adventures start somewhere and mine started when an article in the local newspaper caught my eye. A cannabis farm had been discovered and busted at the derelict Daresbury Hall. I knew that Daresbury was a quiet area, and it was a sunny spring afternoon, so I put on my boots and went for a walk to see what I could find.

Daresbury is a typical Cheshire village situated in rural green belt just south of Warrington. It has one main lane with another leading off towards Hatton. It has a few houses, a primary school, a pub called The Ring O' Bells and red telephone boxes. It also has a connection with Lewis Carroll at All Saints Church, which has turned the area into a kind of heritage theme park, with a visitor centre at the church, a wonderland mosaic and a weather vane at the school, a Lewis Carroll walk around the fields, plus plenty of Cheshire cats.

Walking past the church towards Hatton, I see a fence covered in signs warning of security and guard dogs, which first alerts you to Daresbury Hall's grounds. It seems to be an unwritten law among urban explorers not to give too much away, or reveal how to gain access to a site so as not to antagonise the owners and have the way blocked. All I can say is that it was easy to get in. I had not planned to go in, but seeing an opportunity I just decided to go for it and was soon running across the no-man’s-land of the lawn and into cover.

After waiting for a few moments it looked like I had not been seen. I had the place to myself and so I came out of hiding, walking past the derelict out-buildings to the abandoned swimming pool at the back.

I spent a good two hours exploring the interior, not knowing what was in the next room or around the next corner. There was a lot of graffiti on the walls ranging from the disturbing to the childish: it looked like the place was regularly visited by the local teenagers as well as explorers. I later found out that the hall was used for zombie apocalypse events.

What was the appeal? Was it the ruin porn photography? Was it the trespassing - beating the system and getting in? Or being in a liminal place, a place with heightened awareness of time and transition, touched with an underlying melancholy? I was also exploring my own thoughts as I walked around.

A couple of weeks later another article appeared in the local newspaper. A mysterious fire had gutted the hall and it also had a planning application for development - it was a listed building.

A new kind of exploration has now taken over as the locals fly drones over the area...

Desire Paths by Roy Bayfield

Desire Paths: Real Walks to Nonreal Places by Roy Bayfield

Roy Bayfield really walks in Desire Paths. But not only does he really walk, we accompany him on these “real walks to nonreal places”. This book is no theorising, speculating and proselytising text about walking by someone who views it from a distance. It is walking in the most practical, material and embodied way that only a true urban walkers can speak of. And Bayfield takes us on his journey. Describing himself as an autobiogeographer, we drift with him through the personal and three-dimensional landscape of his voyages in the physical, spiritual, virtual and human realms. This book is for both those already involved in urban walking and for the novice. For those who are new to it, its format is especially designed to open your eyes to the features of the landscape, and at the same time provide you with experimental walking exercises.

You can purchase, and find out more about, Bayfield's new book here: Triarchy Press.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

A Deleuzoguattarian Dialogue on Becoming-Woman – A Mini-Play

[characters: 1 x female and 1 x male]

[standing side by side, both Female and Male face the audience]

M:       I am a man.

F:        I am becoming-woman.

[M turns to F]

M:       But you are woman.

[F turns to M]

F:        No, I am becoming-woman. My becoming produces itself. I am always becoming, never reaching an end.


[both M and F face forward]

M:       I am male.

F:        You are molar.

[M turns to F]

M:       What do you mean I am molar?

[F turns to M]

F:        You occupy the centre. This is your position. You cannot become if you solely remain there.


[both M and F face forward]

M:       OK. I am molar.

F:        I am molecular.

[M turns to F]

M:       What do you mean you are molecular?

[F turns to M]

F:        I emit particles. I can be-between, pass through, go across. I can be everywhere.

M:       [sighs, irritated]


[both M and F facing each other]

M:       OK. I am molar and you are molecular.

F:        I am in a privileged position in relation to becoming.

M:       I want to become too. How do I become?

F:        Becoming-woman is the key to all becomings.

M:       But, I have a male body.

F:        You have a male body in the organic sense. Becoming-woman can be your becoming too.

M:       How?

F:        You can utilise your intensities, produce molecules and take flight!

M:       But, I am sexually male.

F:        Sexuality is the production of a thousand sexes, which are so many uncontrollable becomings. Sexuality is becoming-woman. Sexuality proceeds by way of the becoming-woman of the man.

M:       You’re really starting to piss me off!

[M wanders off, pauses, turns and faces F]

M:       If I want to become-woman what will help me in this process?

F:        You need a body without organs.

M:       Now you’re just being ridiculous!

Saturday, 12 November 2016

#PresidentTrump - A Simulated Hold-Up

“Illusion is no longer possible, because the real is no longer possible” Jean Baudrillard

On 9th November 2016 Donald Trump became President Elect of the United States of America. This was a hold-up. A protracted hold-up, admittedly, one that took a few years. It wasn’t a hold-up in the sense that immediately springs to mind, rather it was a simulated hold-up like that described by Jean Baudrillard in ‘Simulacra and Simulations’. This is what happened:

In the “strategy of the real” Baudrillard explains how when you simulate something the structures around that event are such that, not recognising the event is not real, they put into play the relevant apparatus that validate the event. This adds to the realistic appearance of the event. Baudrillard gives an example of a simulated hold-up to explain his theory. He asks this: “it would be interesting to see whether the repressive apparatus would react more violently to a simulated hold up than a real one?” He explains that, since all the signs of a hold-up look real - even if you use a fake gun – you will be treated by those around you as if the whole process is real. You may be shot, a bank customer may become ill, etc: “you will unwittingly find yourself immediately in the real”. But this is what is important to Baudrillard: “a real hold up only upsets the order of things, the right property, whereas a simulated hold up interferes with the very principle of reality”.

At the beginning of the presidential race – in fact, even before then, in the 2000 campaign nomination – Trump’s simulated hold-up began. However, he kept finding himself propelled into the real: he was never really rumbled. I am sure this was as much a surprise to him as it was to the rest of us. I am not saying he didn’t believe in each individual moment what he was saying. I am saying that because there was no other place for this simulation to function, it had to be seen as real. Since the order of power politics is only a second-order simulacra, the third level simulation is viewed as a representation that fits within the model it is represented in, not that in which it was formed.

It was actually the case that Donald Trump’s presidential election was “inscribed in advance” because of being written in the order of simulation. What Trump said became a “set of signs dedicated exclusively to their recurrence as signs, and no longer to their ‘real’ goal at all” (Baudrillard). It worked precisely because it was a simulation.

Baudrillard says that “transgression and violence are less serious” than the simulated hold-up “for they only contest the distribution of the real. Simulation is infinitely more dangerous since it always suggests, over and above its object, that law and order themselves might really be nothing more than a simulation”.

Related links: 
A Hysterical Simulacra
Donald Trump’s Lunatic Fringe

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Psychogeography News - November 2016

Click here for Adam Scovell’s response to the Brutalist architecture of the Smithson’s and here there is a Guardian article on the resurgence in the popularity of Brutalist architecture. This article discusses the poor designs of buildings in regards to mental health and here you can read a BBC article on Southampton’s concrete buildings.
City Life
This article is about the street cats of Istanbul and how the community collectively care for them. You can read an extract from The Lonely City by Olivia Laing – ‘The Dark Side of the City’. Urban Dreams (and Nightmares) is a one day event in Leeds on 19th November. Here is information on Birmingham on Film: Paradise Lost by Andy Howlett.
Ruin Porn/Lust
A Leeds exhibition on Yorkshire’s abandoned buildings. And the singer, Lonelady, whose music is inspired by psychogeography: “ruins are my idea of fun”.
Adam Scovell interviews John Rogers on ‘London Overground and Psychogeography’. And Walker a 2012 film by Tsai Ming-liang.
Book Reviews
Here are my own review-essays on the following books: The Atlas of Improbable Places by Travis Elborough and Alan Horsfield, Vanishing Streetsby J M Tyree and Elsewhere journal.