Sunday, 24 May 2015

S T E P Z: A Welcome from the Editor

I shall be taking S T E P Z to the printers on Friday. It will be available online (free) and as a limited edition hard copy by mid-June. Please click here for the overview and here for a rundown of the upcoming contributions.

Below is the welcome message from the editor:
Welcome to Stepz, the new zine for and by those interested in psychogeography and in critiquing, appreciating and debating urban space. I started Stepz following the completion of Walking Inside Out: Contemporary British Psychogeography (2015). I felt there were voices that I was unable to represent therein, for various reasons. Stepz does not have the strict editorial rules applied to it that would be the case in an academic article, textbook, or even in a novel. It is, what you might call, ‘editorially restrained’.

When researching for Walking Inside Out I looked at some of the 1990s psychogeography-related zines and alternative texts (like the London Psychogeographical Association’s newsletters and Tom Vague’s ‘Wild West’ zines). These have historically been a part of psychogeography, going back to the sixties and the Situationists – for example, their 1966 pamphlet ‘On the Poverty of Student Life’. If, how I have suggested in discussions about what I’ve termed ‘the new psychogeography’, there is a current resurgence, then it needs to be marked in some way that represents an alternative mode of publication to the mainstream one.

Please note: this pilot edition is in digital and limited edition hardcopy format. While I am happy for people to circulate and copy the magazine as much as they wish, all the authors gave their creative time for free and the magazine is un-copyrighted and not run as a profit-making publication, so please keep that in mind. I have also added a hidden symbol to the hard copy version in order to track its propagation over ley lines.
Tina Richardson

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Uncanny Effects and Perambulatory Weirdness…

. . . at Birmingham New Street

On 18th May I was kindly invited to Birmingham for the day by the artist Ally Standing to see the new development around the New Street area and also Spaghetti Junction. I took this photo at New Street. This contemporary building has one of the classic motifs of postmodern architecture, a mirror-effect that reflects the surrounding environment back onto the space: what Reinhold Martin describes as “feedback loops…a doubling back of the surface onto itself” (Utopia's Ghost: Architecture and Postmodernism, Again 2010: 106).

The building is ‘uncanny’ in the Freudian sense of the word: unheimlich. This is what I have said about the term ‘uncanny’ elsewhere:
Sigmund Freud takes the word from the German unheimlich which means the opposite of what one might find familiar (heimlich meaning familiar - homely, but be careful here, because for Freud the two terms become conflated in what he means by 'uncanny'). So, the uncanny has the qualities of both the familiar and the unfamiliar at the same time. I would describe it as producing a strange kind of affective dissonance, which is disturbing. It throws you into this spaceless space in between the two binary oppositions (recognisable/unrecognisable, understandable/incomprehensible). Sometimes 'the thing' recognised is known, but is out of place and this decontextualisation can create the feeling of the uncanny. (Particulations 2012)
The image creates a doubling back, as Reinhold describes above, and the reflection of the nearby Redbrick building is both familiar and unfamiliar, hence uncanny. You recognise it to be a Redbrick, but it appears to be sitting atop a single pillar which couldn’t possibly support it. The image below contextualises the setting better. It becomes less strange as you start to work out what is going on.

While I do think this image is very weird in its own right, I must say even standing there in this very spot produces an uncanny affect, despite the full context of the landscape being available to you. I am wondering if there is a potential for a perambulatory hinge to evolve at this spot over time. I posted the uncanny image on facebook today to see what people’s reaction might be. Here’s a lovely piece of haiku in response to it, written by Rob Lycett:

Related links:
A Psychogeography of the Westin Bonaventure
Taking an Urban Walk with Freud
An Encounter with the Uncanny

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

What are Perambulatory Hinges?

Following on from my mention of ‘perambulatory hinges’ at the World Congress of Perambulatory Sutures last week, I feel the need to qualify the term in order for it to be pinned down as much as possible. If any of my psychogeography students want to use the term, I would hate for them to use it incorrectly and lose marks in their assignments because of that. So, here are the guidelines for establishing (or writing about) a perambulatory hinge:

1 - A perambulatory hinge is not a ley line!

Ley lines are attributed to Alfred Watkins and he refers to them in a number of his books, for example The Old Straight Track (1925). While you can obviously read the Wikipedia page on ley lines, some psychogeographers think that Wikipedia is not clear enough about what a ley line is. This is how Jeff Belanger opens his blog about his own investigation into them:
A study of leys taught me that the current general idea of what ley lines are is pretty off base. But in researching the phenomenon, some truly intriguing earth energy mysteries can be found. There are fairy paths, corpse roads, geister wegen, and a slew of other supernatural linear features on our planet where people do come for spiritual experiences, and there are "roads" that ghosts have been reported traveling down repeatedly.
Check out Belanger’s helpful article for more info: Ley Lines, Old Straight Tracks, and Earth Energies

2 – Perambulator hinges are subjective, but come into being collectively!

Perambulatory hinges are generally attributed to postmodern space. Or should I say, they are predominantly a postmodern event/occurrence (this will become apparent when you read the theory part explained in no.3 below). They work through a kind of ‘calling’ made by a particular piece of urban phenomenon. Because the calling is psychogeographical – i.e. a particular person is responding aesthetically/affectively to the object – it is subjective (therefore individual) in that aspect. However, as well has having our own personal responses to urban objects, we very often share our reaction with others (although not exclusively, as it is also cultural). So, when a particular object ‘calls’ to a number of people in a similar way over time, a perambulatory hinge develops. This is how it works…

3 – Perambulatory hinges can be best explained through the concept of ‘subjecting’.

In an Althusserian sense the object actually subjects you. It recruits you through its effects. It may not recruit you in the absolutely ideological way expressed by Louis Althusser, but nevertheless it is a cultural effect, so in that sense it may still be ideological. So, like the policeman in Althussers example in ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses’, the urban décor hails you – well it hails anyone, but you feel it is hailing you, specifically – and you, sort of, do this 180 degree turn that Althusser says occurs at the point of subjection. Consequently, you recognise the calling of the phenomenon in its personalised hailing of you. The object, in its expression which is directed at you, appears in its obviousness: it really is calling you. Althusser explains that this is how ideology is “endowed with a material existence”. The effects of the response to the calling retroactively produces its cause through subjecting the individual. Therefore, the individual responding to the urban phenomenon, as subject, is both the cause and effect. This is the effect of the urban apparatus of which the individual is subjected, but it is also what produces her/him as the psychogeographer in that moment, as the cause of the effects.

4 – You cannot see a perambulatory hinge.

When this calling and psychogeographical response is similar among the ‘community’ in regards to a specific piece of urban décor - and when it occurs multiple times over a period of time – eventually a perambulatory hinge arises. You cannot see the hinge come into being, you can only surmise that it might be there. Of course, you could verify it through discussion with the psychogeographic community. The hinge appears when it reaches a kind of critical mass. Even though it is invisible it nevertheless is still material because it is caused by this ‘180 degree turn’ mooted by Althusser (of course, it isn’t really necessarily exactly 180 degrees, though - this is metaphoric). While you cannot exactly pinpoint the exact position of the hinge in space, you can probably work out roughly where it may be by looking at lines of sight, etc. However, unlike a desire line – which is very apparent – it is not visible, although sometimes there may be traces...

Please click here for another post on Birmingham. I will be further fleshing out the concept of perambulatory hinges in a future article.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

The World Congress of Perambulatory Sutures

The World Congress of Perambulatory Sutures took place in the North of England this last week, culminating in two extraordinary events, one held in Huddersfield and one in Leeds. I use the word ‘extraordinary’ here in the definition of both ‘unusual or remarkable’ and also ‘specially convened’. These events were ‘Class Wargames’ at the University of Huddersfield (13th May 2015) and ‘The Inside Out of Walking Inside Out’ at the University of Leeds (14th May 2015). Psychogeographers travelled through time and space for these events. From as geographically far away as Paris, as temporally distant as the London Psychogeographical Association of the 1990s and as virtually far away as the online Outbounding forum, The Art of Exploring.

Class Wargames
University of Huddersfield 13 May 2015

Dr Alexander John Bridger arranged for Fabian Tompsett, Richard Essex and Dr Richard Barbrook to introduce Class Wargames to interested parties: gamely academics, itinerant psychogeographers and general ne’er do wells with a curious nature. Class Wargames is based on Guy Debord’s ‘The Game of War’ and in his honour alcohol was included in order to help channel the God of the dérive. Sides were taken, swords were drawn, turrets were stormed – all in the name of class and psychogeographical boundaries.

Anyone partaking in Class Wargames may put themselves forward for ‘activist’ or ‘associate’ status once they have played. However this title can only be tenuously attributed to those who drank so much they could barely even pronounce ‘Debord’ and also those whose attention span was equivalent to that of a single-celled organism.

The 8 hour long game culminated in a win for the underdogs – or rather underdog as by this time three of the four players on that team had found the Harold Wilson statue and spent the last two hours of the game discussing the Bolsheviks and feeding him crisps. For some, the event was a dérive in itself, as they walked from Huddersfield through the night straight to the event that took place the next day at the University of Leeds, sleeping under a bush in the Vice Chancellor's garden till woken by maintenance staff at around 7.00am.

The Inside Out of Walking Inside Out
University of Leeds 14 May 2015

At ‘The Inside Out of Walking Inside Out’ Dr Tina Richardson not only led us on a wander through her new edited volume, but also through the scene of British urban walking in the 21st century. Plying the audience with wine gums, marshmallows and chocolate buttons, she attempted to bribe the audience into buying the book by giving away key rings. One of the audience members stormed out half way through in protest at “the lack of alcoholic beverages at a freakin’ book launch” and threw his key ring at Richardson, knocking off her trilby. Richardson had to pass over to Dr. Bridger to continue reading while she snorted from her Bach Rescue Remedy teat pipette in an attempt to recover.

Richardson was her usual contentious and unagreeable self, throwing terms like ‘post-Sinclairian’ into the mix in order to start an argument, at the same time alienating all the literary psychogeographers in the audience and the London-based ones in one fell swoop – not least Sinclair himself. She explained ‘the new psychogeography’ to everyone, stating pretentiously that since she hadn’t got too much time left before she retired “one must strategically carve out a place for oneself in order to become part of psychogeography’s heritage”.

The talk ended with the swearing in of a new World Congress secretary and treasurer, followed by an indoor psychogeographical trip, led by Dr Andrew Evans, around the School of Geography.

We, The World Congress, believe that the cumulative effect of the geographical concentration of these two events in the week beginning 11th May 2015 has probably shifted psychogeographical ley lines across the UK, or at the very least at significant points north of Birmingham. It is also quite likely that at what are known as ‘perambulatory hinges’, such as the one located at the University of Loughborough near the brutalist halls of residence (Towers) and also that situated on the roundabout near Burley’s Flyover in Leicester, have been totally thrown off orbit!

You can also see Dr Bridger's account of events, including much more information on the game itself, here: Not Another Psychogeography Blog:

"Lest we forget to mention, there was a special guest appearance by David Bollinger, Director of the West Yorkshire Association for Psychogeography at the Class Wargames event at the University of Huddersfield. His contribution was vital to enabling the Austrians to win the battle of Marengo, thus turning history ‘on its head’ and preventing the French from winning!"
 CEO of Huddersfield Psychogeographical Network

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Walking Inside Out – Contents

Walking Inside Out:
Contemporary British Psychogeography
Editor: Tina Richardson
Publisher: Rowman and Littlefield International

Due: July 2015

Below are the contents for Walking Inside Out. For the full details on the book by the publisher, please click here.


Introduction: A Wander through the Scene of British Urban Walking
Tina Richardson

Part I: The Walker and the Urban Landscape
1 Longshore Drift: Approaching Liverpool from Another Place
Roy Bayfield
2 Walking the Dog: (For Those Who Don’t Know How to Do It)
Ian Marchant
3 Incongruous Steps toward a Legal Psychogeography
Luke Bennett

Part II: Memory, Historicity, Time
4 Walking through Memory: Critical Nostalgia and the City
Alastair Bonnett
5 Selective Amnesia and Spectral Recollection in the Bloodlands
Phil Wood
6 The Art of Wandering: Arthur Machen’s London Science
Merlin Coverley
7 Wooden Stones
Gareth E. Rees

Part III: Power and Place
8 Psychogeography Adrift: Negotiating Critical Inheritance in a Changed Context
Christopher Collier
9 Confessions of an Anarcho-Flâneuse, or Psychogeography the Mancunian Way
Morag Rose

Part IV: Practicing Psychogeography/Psychogeographical Practices
10 Psychogeography and Mythogeography: Currents in Radical Walking
Phil Smith
11 Developing Schizocartography: Formulating a Theoretical Methodology for a Walking Practice
Tina Richardson
12 Route Planning a Sensory Walk: Sniffing Out the Issues
Victoria Henshaw

Part V: Outsider Psychogeography
13 Rewalking the City: People with Dementia Remember
Andrea Capstick
14 Psychogeography, Antipsychologies, and the Question of Social Change
Alexander John Bridger

Conclusion: The New Psychogeography
Tina Richardson

Book Talk in Leeds 14th May

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Stepz Zine – Summary of Upcoming Contributions

The first draft contributions are in for Stepz: A Psychogeography and Urban Aesthetics Zine, so here is a summary of what you can expect in the pilot edition, which will be out in June (in alphabetical order):

Anna Chism
Chism interviews Tina Richardson about her psychogeography bucket list.

William Davis
Davies talks about hostile architecture, surveillance and social control.

Sophia Emmanouil
Emmanouil carries out an urban expedition with her daughter, turning it into a collage.

Jim Lawrence
Lawrence contributes a Ballardian fiction on Southampton’s underbelly.

Niall McDevitt
Max Reeves illustrates McDevitt’s essay on Yeat’s London, with his photographs.

The Psychogeographical Commission
The Psychogeography Commission provide lyrics on the experience of walking in the city.

Marlowe Reeves
Reeves will be including a drawing of urban space.

John Rogers
Evoking William Blake, Rogers offers us a history of Caledonian Park.

S.: discusses place and how memories persist over time and space.

Bobby Seal
In his essay, illustrated by Ian Long, Seal talks about how his health problems have impacted his mountain walking.

Ally Standing
Standing provides a critique of the brutalist architecture in Birmingham.

Tim Waters
Waters offers a textual, cut-up style map of Leeds.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Book Talk in Leeds – Walking Inside Out: Contemporary British Psychogeography

The Inside Out of Walking Inside Out

Date/Time: Thursday 14th May 5.15-6.15
Venue: University of Leeds (please see below for full venue details)

Talk/reading abstract:
This is the first talk in the series and preempts the release of Walking Inside Out: Contemporary British Psychogeography (Rowman and Littlefield International) in July. The talk introduces the premise behind the book, the ‘Inside Out’ of the title. Tina will be talking about why she thinks the book is timely and how it straddles both the fields of academia and creative writing. She will be reading from chapters written by some of the contributors and also talking about ‘the new psychogeography’. Flyers will be available on the night which give you a discount on the purchase of the book.

Tina Richardson is an independent scholar and psychogeographer. She became interested in psychogeography in 2009 when researching the Situationist International and set up Leeds Psychogeography Group that year, running it at the university till 2013. She is now a writer/editor and guest lecturer. Walking Inside Out is her new edited volume following Concrete, Crows and Calluses which she self-published in 2013. Tina is currently editing a magazine called Stepz, which will be published in June.

Venue details/directions:
Garstang Building, Level 7, Room 7.36
Once at the University of Leeds, go to Chancellor’s Court. Chancellors Court can be seen between buildings 88, 89 and 84 on this downloadable map: Click here for Map.
To get to the room, go to the middle of south side of Chancellor's Court: Click here for google earth view of Chancellor’s Court.
There you'll find a set of (as yet unmarked) sliding doors, which are the entrance to the new School of Geography complex. Go through and into the foyer; the room is on the left.