It says a lot for our disconnection with the world around us that walking can be considered a creative, even subversive act. For the men of the post-impressionist era, the flaneurs for whom ready income and social status acted as an access-all-areas pass for the rapidly modernising metropolis, the idea of promenading without intent or purpose was, in some senses, radical behaviour. The modern city had never been explored in this way before.
Now there's Mythogeography: A Guide to Walking Sideways
, a guide book that accompanies the rediscovery of slowly traversed space. From the blurb: 'In a city, for example, walkers become aware of their urban home as a site, a forum, a playground and a stage: all there to enjoy, understand and provoke on multiple levels'.
The walking history has been reclaimed from its earlier rural focus (see Nicholas Crane's Two Degrees West
) through the suburban, post-industrial psychogeographical meanderings of Iain Sinclair
(predated by the work of the London Psychogeographical Association
), to concentrate explicitly on the city, a fulfilment of the Situationist playground, the home of drift
. In a sense, even a click and drag around Google Streetmap is a form of drifting, but who are we really kidding; without the smells, sounds and textures of a real city, the fruitless zoom, enhance, pan and scroll of such virtual exploration will always be a poor second place.
Phil Smith's Mythogeography
decribes the role of walking thus: 'as performance, as exploration, as urban resistance, as activism, as an ambulatory practice of geography, as meditation, as post-tourism, as dissident mapping, as subversion of and rejoicing in the everyday.' It's not strictly urban, of course - see Drift
, for some rural wandering, or explore Smith's own starter kit
for drifting, a way for 'opening up the world, clearing eyes and peeling away the layers of spectacle, deception and that strange “hiddeness in plain sight” that coats the everyday.'
There was a flurry of activity in GPS-created art a few years ago. GPS Traces
, or GPS drawing
, or Waag's Amsterdam RealTime
project, collated on this Me-fi post
, where the antecedent of forms created from urbanism in Paul Auster's New York Trilogy
is noted. This was walking as exhibitionism, the inevitable dovetail of technology and showmanship, venturing forth because we could
It's a relatively bloody-minded pursuit, mythogeography, an attempt to absorb esoteric information from every conceivable source and to invest ulterior meaning in the transient and everyday. This obsession with static drift is, it has to be said, very much contrary to the screen-filtered world that has spilled out of the home and office and onto the tube, bus or pavement.
Mythogeography doesn't have much truck with technology. Like Nicholas Crane and his carefully hand-assembled strips of meridian, it is a discipline that demands paper maps, missteps, dead ends and an overall sense of not knowing exactly where you are. Nowadays, we're all concerned with our time to first fix
, a suitably drug-laced term for a craving for instant location identity. It seems sad that we have to be instructed in such mythogeographical practices, that our default settings aren't to 'follow instincts not maps', but to plug in. *
Another pertinent set of links: iconic architecture destroyed in movies
/ a shape book
at Miller Goodman's
flickr stream / more shapes: contemporary Portuguese architecture at Ultimas Reportagens
/ fine Penguin Book Cover
We're really struggling to work out where the whole 'ninja' thing came from in relation to architecture blogging, e.g. Archi Ninja
, Architecture My Ninja Please
/ MIMOA's review of the year
Sign off and out forever with the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine
: 'This machine lets you delete all your energy sucking social-networking profiles, kill your fake virtual friends, and completely do away with your Web 2.0 alterego.'
Labels: cities, esoterica, technology