Friday, 30 December 2016

Myth Today: Truth and Triumph in a Trump World

Figure 1: Truth/Trump

“What is a myth, today” Roland Barthes asks in the opening line to his essay ‘Myth Today’ (2000: 109). Writing in the 1950s it seems questionable that he could have foreseen a presidential election result like that of the United States of America on 9 November 2016, however his essay presents us with its possibility in regards to how language operates: neatly explained in Barthes’ own second level of connotation, the myth: “myth is a type of speech” he answers (ibid.). For those studying the speech act, Donald Trump’s win has provided much food for thought in regards to truth (and reality), and the election campaign has renewed interest in the concept of post-truth, even spawning its own hashtag: #post-truth.

As for the election win itself, not that we can separate the win from the speech acts, in ‘Dominici, or the Triumph of Literature’ Barthes discusses the problems in regards to the lack of a commonality in a shared language when it comes to hierarchy. Reporting on the murder trial of Gaston Dominic in 1952, Barthes explains the difference between those in power (in this case the Presiding Judge), and ‘the other’ (the accused), when it comes to language (2000: 43-44). He also lists some of the ad hominem terms that were used in the trial to describe the accused and explains that this is how language triumphs in a system of inequality: “this ‘universal’ language comes just at the right time to lend a new strength to the psychology of the masters: it allows it always to take other men as objects, to describe and condemn at one stroke” (2000: 45).

Trump’s language has been thoroughly analysed in the media and in academic texts, well before the few months leading up to the election. I do not plan to include a discourse analysis of what he has said, since this has been well-covered elsewhere. What I would like to do is open a discussion on the idea of truth, as it sits within Barthes concept of myth, in an attempt to understand how the denigrating language Trump used towards particular groups had little negative effect on his popularity, nor the outcome of the election. To pick just three examples, Trump is well-quoted for his pride in “grabbing women by the pussy” (Fishwick 2016), for accusing Mexican immigrants of “bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and their rapists” (Neate 2015), and for his anti-Muslim/anti-immigration sentiment: "I'm putting the people on notice that are coming here from Syria as part of this mass migration, that if I win, if I win, they're going back" (Basu 2015).

Figure 2: Roland Barthes' Semiological Structure of the Myth

Explaining how the sign on the denotative level of signification (language) becomes the signifier on the connotative level (myth) (2000: 115), Barthes states that myth “is not defined by the object of its message, but by the way in which it utter its message…Every object in the world can pass from a closed, silent, existence to an oral state, open to appropriation by society, for there is no law, whether natural or not, which forbids talking about things” (2000: 109). Trump’s speech acts have been dispersed and devoured through what Barthes calls “a type of social usage” (ibid.) and I believe that what at one time we found unacceptable, is being given currency at a time when some groups in society feel that they have been failed by the government over a protracted time. Upon repeated use these messages become normalised, they become “filled with a situation” (Barthes 2000: 119). If today we look at the title ‘President-elect Trump’ as a sign, we cannot now separate this phrase from what he said, or from his triumphant win. This is what makes up the concept of the sign, it “reconstitutes a chain of causes and effects, motives and intentions” (ibid.). Value has been attached to what Trump said by some quarters (seemingly, mostly, the disenfranchised white working class), because, despite the content of his rhetoric he still won. This means the myth has been legitimised:
Myth is a value, truth is no guarantee for it; nothing prevents it from being a perpetual alibi: it is enough that its signifier has two sides for it always to have an 'elsewhere' at its disposal. The meaning is always there to present the form; the form is always there to outdistance the meaning. And there never is any contradiction, conflict, or split between the meaning and the form: they are never at the same place (Barthes 2000: 123).
What I think many of us were amazed by was Trump’s blatant use of sexist and racist descriptors (what is known as “unapologetic racism”). He made no attempt to conceal the way he felt about his particular minority group du jour. Not only did he have a complete disregard to political correctness, but also felt no compunction in openly speaking his mind without the use of ‘filters’. He attached no importance to what is known as “preference falsification” (Timur Kuran): the act of not saying what you really think due to social pressure. This has the function of giving...
racists new heart by suggesting that many more people share their beliefs than they might hitherto have believed. Trump’s electoral success tells them that at the least racism is not a politically disqualifying problem for presidential candidates any more, and that perhaps for many voters it is a plus rather than a minus. Second, it tells them that if they themselves publicly express their racism, they are less likely to be socially punished than they previously believed (Farrell 2016).
It is in this way that the myth becomes codified: “the fundamental character of the mythical concept is to be appropriated” (Barthes 2000: 119). What Barthes means here, though, is how the first level of the sign is taken up into the second level, thus turning it into myth. However, it is also this shift that puts it into circulation and brings it to light: the myth does not conceal anything, rather “its function is to distort, not to make disappear” (2000: 121). The myth, once promulgated, becomes personalised by those who take it up and support Trump. They see themselves as the victim in a dynamic which can conveniently create a scapegoat of any number of minority groups. The supporters of Trump recognise themselves in the myth presented to them: “it is I whom it has come to seek. It is turned towards me, I am subjected to its intentional force” (Barthes 2000: 124).

Figure 3: What Did Trump Say? What Words Are Associated With Him?

Barthes explains how this works in a similar way to how Louis Althusser describes interpellation: “it comes and seeks me out in order to oblige me to acknowledge the body of intentions which have motivated it and arranged it there as the signal of an individual history, as a confidence and complicity: it is a real call” (2000: 125). The Trump supporter has recognised the call and is interpellated as subject to the cause. The message is received as a kind of obviousness, presented as the natural order of things: “A conjuring trick has taken place; it has turned reality inside out, it has emptied it of history and has filled it with nature” (2000: 142).

In regards to what most of us would see as lies from Trump, for the myth this is not quite the whole story: “Myth hides nothing and flaunts nothing: it distorts; myth is neither lie nor a confession: it is an inflexion” (Barthes 2000: 129). Barthes sees the myth as a type of “compromise” that has the ability to escape any kind of linguistic contradiction that could result from its exposure, any attempt to “liquidate the concept” will simply “naturalize it” (2000: 125). Myth “transforms history into nature” (ibid.) and we know this is how it operates as history is our evidence of this, because myth “is not read as a motive, but as a reason” (ibid.). Barthes goes on to explain that it does not even matter if later on people realise that something is a myth, because “its action is assumed to be stronger than the rational explanations which may later belie it” (2000: 130) and we saw this when female Trump supporters were interviewed about his sexist comments: most did not change their minds about supporting him. Nevertheless what is important to remember is that “We are all potential Dominicis”, even those who voted for Trump, because we can all be “deprived of language, or worse, rigged out in that of our accusers, humiliated and condemned by it. To rob a man of his language in the very name of language: this is the first step in all legal murders” (2000: 46).

Donald Trump won the election because of what he said, not despite it – this much is true. For those that voted for him, and for his other supporters and soon-to-be presidential ‘team’, the content of Trump’s speech-acts operated on them through connotation, the second-level of semiology, the myth. Trump utilised the myth to set himself up as the cult leader par excellence. His self-appointed place as saviour of the side-lined has made him a ‘perfect’ leader in a post-truth world.

Bibliography:
Barthes, Roland. 2000. Mythologies, trans. by Annette Lavers (London: Vintage).
Basu, Tanya, ‘Trump Says He’ll Send Refugees back to Syria if Elected’, Time, (30 September 2015), < http://time.com/4056951/trump-syria-refugees/> [accessed 23 November 2016]
Farrell, Henry, ‘Trump’s Election Has Undermined ‘Political Correctness’. That Might Actually Be a Problem’, The Washington Post, (19 November 2016), [accessed 23 November 2016]
Fishwick, Carmen, ‘Can You Be a Feminist and Vote for Donald Trump? Yes You Can’, The Guardian, (17 November 2016), [accessed 21 November 2016]
Neate, Rupert, ‘Donald Trump Doubles Down on Mexico ‘rapists’ Comment Despite Outrage’, The Guardian, (2 July 2015), [accessed 21 November 2016]

Image Credits:
1 Designed by the author.

2 Created by the author based on Roland Barthes own model in Myth Today.
3 Compiled and designed by the author.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

South by Merlin Coverley

From the beaches of Tahiti to the streets of Buenos Aires, from Naples to New Orleans, Merlin Coverley’s wide-ranging study throws light on the ways in which the idea of the South, in all its forms, has come to exert such a powerful hold on our collective imagination (from the cover of South).

Coverley tackles this vast subject eloquently, breaking his book into six chapter (The Idea of South, Goethe’s Law, In the South Seas, Magic South, The Polar South and South of the River), in order to examine the concept of the South from a philosophical, geographical, cultural and literary perspective so as to demonstrate the complexity and fascination it holds for us. I shall be writing about ‘The Idea of the South’ (the introduction) and ‘South of the River’ here.

The Idea of the South

Being a cultural theorist the concept of ‘the south’ is particularly interesting to me (as are the other points of the compass, since they are often set in binaries and have values attached to them when set in opposition – for example the North/South divide in Britain). Coverley begins the introduction by showing us a 17th century map of the south pole and then describes the work by the artist Andy Goldsworthy entitled Touching North (1989) (see below). Touching North was situated at the North Pole, with the four individual parts of the sculpture facing each other and also outwards, with holes in the centre providing them with an opening which enabled them a space accessible from anywhere and everywhere. Coverley says that the sculpture “demonstrates how the directions of the compass may effectively be rendered meaningless: emerge through any of the four arches and one finds oneself heading south” (page 9). Thus Coverley launches the reader into the ambiguity of the term ‘south’ and in the introduction begins to explain how it developed.


South of the River

Having spent most of my working life in London the idea of north and south of the Thames means something for me, especially since I worked and lived only in the north of London during my time there. Coverley begins the final chapter by discussing Angela Carter’s novel Wise Children (1991) and how the protagonists live on “the bastard side of Old Father Thames” (Angela Carter), in other words ‘the south’. Coverley explains that he has lived in south London on and off for about twenty years and notes that this division is now “less distinct, as the process of gentrification refashions the city into the one we inhabit today” (page 224). I must say, this was also my experience. Having moved to London in the mid-1980s (at the beginning of the property boom) and having left in 2002, there was certainly a smoothing out in regards to what was considered, when I first arrived, to be “broad concentrations of wealth and power in the North at odds with the poverty and lack of political representation to be found in the South” (page 224). The urban development and rising property value throughout the capital during the time I was living there, eventually made this distinction redundant.


Coverley also mentions one of my favourite books about London Soft City (Jonathan Raban 1974) and quotes Raban talking about how when one lives in the north of London, visiting someone in the south can seem like a real trek when it involves crossing the river. So this is about the perception of the distance – broken by the river as a boundary - rather than the actual mileage.

Coverley’s latest book will have a wide appeal. I’ve only included a few of my own observations here (this is not a proper book review), but in the rest of the book he examines imaginary places such as Atlantis and books like Ballard’s Atrocity Exhibition (1970), and the concept of ‘the noble savage’ to the works of Iain Sinclair (let’s not forget Coverley is a psychogeographer).

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Tina Richardson - Publications


Books and Book Chapters
‘Psy(co)motion: Anti-Production and Détournement in Affective Musical Cartographies', Non-representational Theory and the Creative Arts, eds. Candice Boyd and Christian Edwardes, Bloomsbury Academic: London [2018]
'Creating a Situation in the City: Embodied Spaces, Intertextual Sites and the Act of Crossing Boundaries', The Routledge Companion to Urban Media and Communication, eds. Zlatan Krajina and Deborah Stevenson, London and New York: Routledge [2018]
Walking Inside Out: Contemporary British Psychogeography, eds. Tina Richardson (London: Rowman and Littlefield International) 2015.

Academic Journal Articles
‘Hiding the Bodies: Socio-Geographic Repression in Higher Educational Space’, Space and Culture [upcoming]
Assembling the Assemblage: Developing Schizocartography in Support of an Urban Semiology’, Humanities, 6,3 (2017), 47.
A Schizocartography of the University of Leeds: Cognitively Mapping the Campus’, disClosure: A Journal of Social Theory, 23, 1 (2014), 140-162.
'A Schizocartography of a Redbrick', Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and Extraurban Studies, 1, 1 (2011), 119-128.
'Using Schizocartography as a Method of Critiquing the 'University of Excellence'', Reimagining the University, 1, 1 (2011), 12-21.
'Book Review: Urban Space as a Medium for Democracy', Parallax, 17, 3 (2011), 113-115. 'Introducing Schizocartography: Challenging Anti-Production - Schizocartography as Method and Practice', Society of Cartographers Bulletin, 44 (2010), 31-38.

Academic Editorships
Editor: Walking Inside Out: Contemporary British Psychogeography. London: Rowman and Littlefield International (2015).
Co-editor: Parallax: Contours of Learning: On Spivak (Taylor and Francis), Volume 17, Issue 3 (2011)
Co-editor: Parallax: Enthusiasm (Taylor and Francis), Volume 17, Issue 2 (2011).
Associate editor: Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and Extraurban Studies, Volume 1, Issue 2 (2011).
Associate editor: Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and Extraurban Studies, Volume 1, Issue 3 (2011).

PhD Thesis
'The Unseen University: A Schizocartography of the Redbrick University Campus' (2014 University of Leeds)

Arts and Culture Publications
‘Heterotopias of Compensation: Travis Elborough’s A Walk in the Park’, Driftmine, July 2016.
‘Setting Up a World: Phenomenology and Cultural Amnesia in General Orders No.9’, Driftmine, May 2016.
‘Interview: A Psychogeography Bucket List’, Stepz: A Psychogeography and Urban Aesthetics Zine, (Particulations Press).
‘When is a Ley Line not a Ley Line? When it is a Perambulatory Hinge’, Driftmine, June 2015.
‘Interview: A Psychogeography Bucket List’, Foxhole Magazine, Spring/Summer 2015, 54-57. Concrete, Crows and Calluses 2013 (Leeds: Particulations Press)
'Kirkstall Valley Sub-Dub or the Prozac Walk' and 'The Cootie-Catcher Dérive or A Walk With Some Really Interesting Dutch Chaps', [Psychogeographic Field Reports] (January 2012).
[please note Driftmine.org is now closed, but all my articles and book/film reviews that were published on that site can be accessed in full here]

Arts and Culture Editorships
Co-editor: Stepz II: Between the Rollerama and the Junk Yard, Exhibition Edition (Summer 2016). Editor: TwentySix Psychogeography Stations. Darrant Hinisco. Leeds: Urban Gerbil Publications (2015).
Editor: Stepz I: A Psychogeography and Urban Aesthetics Zine, Pilot Edition (Summer 2015).

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Listening Lines - The Samaritans

Yesterday a friend on Facebook posted a reminder about how difficult it can be for some people at Xmas time, and he put up the phone number for the Samaritans. From the UK you can call from any phone on: 116 123.


This post sparked an interesting discussion about the Samaritans, and I added that one of my family members was a Samaritan for 20 years and that there was a book of poetry called Listening Lines (Arrival Press 1995) that was written by volunteers and edited by Suzy Goodall. This is the poem of hers that was included, but there are many other touching ones in there, too. This poem was about a young homeless man living in King's Lynn, who visited Trixie at the Samaritans regularly, to talk to someone who cared, to sit in a warm room for a short while and drink a hot cup of tea:

UNTITLED

He comes again,
Same life, same story,
Same despair.

Happy now,
No more strife.
He takes his life.

Trixie

Monday, 5 December 2016

Psychogeography News - December 2016


Books
Roy Bayfield’s new book, Desire Paths, is now available (Triarchy Press). Paul Scraton’s Ghosts on the Shore has just been published by Influx Press. Nairn’s Towns is a collection of Ian Nairn’s writings, introduced by Owen Hatherley.

The City
White Noise is an art-based blog about people and the city. This is Andrea Gibbons website on the relationship between the country and the city: Writing Cities. Here is a post called A New Map of Berlin about cycling in Berlin.

Walking Related Posts and Blogs
Slow Travel Berlin has a post by Paul Sullivan on Walking in the City and Walking Through London’s History is a new project by students at Goldsmith’s (run by John Price).

Situationist Stuff
Derek Hales is giving a talk in Halifax on Dec 12 on Ralph Rumney and psychogeography. You can read a post entitled Salvaging Situationism: Race and Space by Andrea Gibbons here.

My Stuff
In November I was interviewed on Radio Fabrik in Salzburg for the Geographical Imaginations project by Kevin S. Fox - you can listen to the podcast here: Psychogeography 101. Here is an up-to-dated list of the guest posts on Particulations.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Christmas Alone? Six Tips and a Brilliant Mnemonic!


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!

1 FAMILY
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!

2 RITUAL
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!

3 INDULGENCE
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.

4 DRINK
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.

5 GIVING
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.

6 EFFORT
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!

EMERGENCY NUMBERS
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.

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, 21 November 2016

A Psychogeography Bucket List


This interview by Anna Chism has featured in both STEPZ and Foxhole (vol. 1)

Ahead of the release of her edited volume WalkingInside Out: Contemporary British Psychogeography Anna Chism interviews Tina Richardson on those spaces and places that are top of her wish list when it comes to psychogeographical exploration.
I eventually find Tina’s house just off the Leeds Ring Road. With a pub, bowls club, wooded area and dog-walking field opposite, it is a geographical combination of suburban-rural. I imagine it is an interesting space for a psychogeographer to reside. She has lived in this part of North Leeds for the past three years in a post-Victorian terraced house along with her elderly companion, ex-hippy turned nun, Sister Moonshine.
Tina could not be described as a reluctant interviewee, giving interviews to anyone who will give her a minute of their time. As part of the current revival of psychogeography she is one of the ‘the new psychogeographers’, the moment whereby psychogeography is becoming increasingly self-conscious and reflexive.
Tina welcomes me into her study – a room full of books and objet d’art resembling a pretentious kitsch version of Freud’s office – and we settle by the window with our rooibos. I throw my coat over a fluorescent green plaster-of-Paris version of Rodin’s David and congratulate her on the record-breaking numbers of pre-orders of her new volume. And we begin.
AC: Tina, tell me the top three places in the world you would like to carry out a psychogeography-related project.
TR: At the moment – and this list would possibly be different if you asked me in a year’s time – it would be Dubai, Camp Bastion and Wymondham College.
AC: Well, I’ve heard of the first two, but where the heck is Wymondham College and what makes it a place ripe for psychogeography?
TR: It’s actually a secondary school in Norfolk not far from Norwich and it used to be a military hospital up until it became a grammar school in 1951. It’s a publicly funded boarding school and has a noteworthy campus format, and needless to say, an interesting history, which actually includes Anglo Saxon finds. At one time the pupils slept in Nissan huts left there by the British Forces and even up until the 1980s attended classes in the huts. Only one Nissan hut remains now, as part of the school’s heritage.
AC: What angle would you take if you had the opportunity to work on the campus?
TR: Well, while it would be easy for me to use the same methodology I did for my PhD – a schizocartography of a campus space (in that instance the University of Leeds) – I think Wymondham College lends itself better to one of haunting. For instance, part of the original hospital has a mortuary, but more significantly than that are the anecdotal stories that have become memes promulgated by the pupils themselves. These ghostly stories about the college are passed on to all the new pupils by the older ones, often carried out in performative way on specific dates each year.
AC: Tell me what it is about Dubai that takes your urban fancy?
TR: Ever since I’ve been a psychogeographer I’ve been interested in Dubai. I used to teach a class on it and used it as an example of a postmodern space. In a way it is a post postmodern space. If Los Angeles represents the postmodern city par excellence, then Dubai represents the next phase of urban development, whatever the name for that might be. Dubai needs its own school of urbanism and theory like Chicago and Los Angeles had. This potential school will look at a dynamics of urbanism whereby actual physical space is created from ‘nothing’, either vertically, as in Blade Runner and The Fifth Element, or horizontally, for example like Dubai, from the sea, by creating islands of sand.
AC: What kind of problems might you anticipate if you were to carry out psychogeography in Dubai?
TR: I’m not sure what it is like for a woman to walk in Dubai. It is not a pedestrian-friendly city, by all accounts. I did a project in Los Angeles – the city of cars – and that was interesting in a place where walking was a rare process of moving about the city. However, in regards to Dubai, my interest is in the spaces that have been formed out of the sea, such as the Palm Islands. These islands can be seen from space. They have changed the lay of the land on a very fundamental level and in an amazingly creative way.
AC: Thanks, Tina. Now for your final space. Surely you’ve missed the psychogeographical boat on Camp Bastion?
TR: Yes, I’m afraid that’s true. Ideally I would have loved to have done a project during the peak of its decommissioning, but it is coming to an end now. Camp Bastion is returning to the desert from whence it sprung, a bit like Dubai but in reverse. Camp Bastion was a city as well as a military airbase. It required a project in itself in the dismantling of it – actually costing six times more than that of its creation. It’s a unique space and it is this that makes it intriguing to me. Before Camp Bastion, Chernobyl was on my bucket list, but Chernobyl has been worked and re-worked a lot in recent times.
AC: How would you have made your case for doing a project in Camp Bastion?
TR: Well, I wouldn’t have passed the security checks even if there was the remotest chance they’d have allowed a civvy on the camp. They would have taken one look at my website and thought ‘There is no way we are letting that lefty subversive anywhere near this base’!
AC: What other places are on your bucket list?
TR: Portmerion, Fordlandia and Celebration would all be interesting places to explore, and for similar reasons, and are definitely on my list.
AC: Before we finish, can I ask you what you are working on now?
TR: I’m currently scheduling talks for the promotion of the book and working on the autumn edition of Stepz.

Tina’s edited volume Walking Inside Out: Contemporary British Psychogeography is published by Rowman and Littlefield International and will be out in July 2015. You can find out more about her work on her website: www.schizocartography.org

Saturday, 19 November 2016

#Post-Truth – Trump, Truth and Treachery in the Post Post-Modern


There was an interesting article in The Conversation yesterday: The surprising origins of post truth – and how it was spawned by the liberal left. It’s interesting to me because it could be described as coming under the general rubric of cultural studies, not least for the reference to Jean-Francois Lyotard’s book The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, a key text in cultural theory. I won’t go into the article in depth - which starts by stating that post-truth is the international word of the year - as you can read it yourself. What I would like to do is include some extra cultural theory to support/expand on what the author, Andrew Calcutt, says and draw a few concepts together that are related to truth - reality, language and evil – and list them next to their respective theorists.

Michel Foucault: Truth, Discourse and Language
For Foucault statements, appearing as speech acts, are not about truth versus falsity, rather they designate a field of discourse that “emerges in its materiality, appears with a status, enters various networks and various fields of use, is subjected to transferences and modifications, is integrated into operations and strategies in which its identity is maintained or effaced” (2005, 118). Statements exist within a designated field, thus utilising relevant forces which dictate the validity of a given utterance. Foucault explains how the statement is partly concealed in its very deployment. ‘Truth’ is not a function of the words and sentences themselves, but the whole network of factors which form that specific utterance in the propagation of a specific statement. The statement exists through a form of appropriation and it is legitimised through the utilisation of the forces that exist, in an event-like state, around it. For Foucault “a true discourse engenders or ‘manufactures’ something that does not yet exist, that is, ‘fictions’ it” (1980, 193). In regard to the Trump presidency, we can see the power of statement and how it operates within a discourse of power, like all statements do. However, what is key to what I have written here in regards to Foucault is this manufacturing of something new, which also relates to my last post on the subject of Trump: #PresidentTrump – A Simulated Hold-Up. So, how does the concept of truth sit with another postmodern theorist, Baudrillard…

Jean Baudrillard: Evil, Language and the Sign
In The Intelligence of Evil or the Lucidity Pact, Baudrillard says “It is impossible to destroy the system by a contradiction-based logic or by reversing the balance of forces – in short, by a direct, dialectical revolution affecting the economic or political infrastructure. Everything that produces contradiction or a balance of forces or energy in general merely feeds back into the system and drives it on” (2005, 4) and I believe we witnessed this process unfolding in the US presidential election. But what of truth? The people were witness to lies in the Trump election (and BRexit). These lies did not seem to matter as much as some of us expected they might – especially in the academic community (although we will always have a respective theory to why these things happen, depending on our own specialism). Well, it’s all tied up in semiology for Baudrillard. Baudrillard asks the question: “What becomes of the arbitrary nature of the sign when the referent ceases to be the referent?” (2005, 68). He goes on to explain: “The sign, ceasing to be a sign, becomes once again a thing among things. That is to say, a thing of total necessity or absolute contingency…For the sign is a scene, the scene of representation, of seduction, of language: in language signs seduce once another beyond meaning [and] the disappearance of this scene clears the way for a principle of obscenity, a pornographic materialization of everything” (2005, 68-69). In regards to good and evil, Baudrillard explains that the disintegration of the sign reduces these terms to “happiness and misfortune” (2005, 139). In the media many have said that it was the misfortune felt by the, mostly, white working class in the US that led to Trump’s win. This leads me on to the next set of terms, not by a cultural theorist, interestingly, but in a book that the article reminded me of: The People of the Lie.

M. Scott Peck: Stress, Evil and the Cult Leader
In his book about human evil, the psychiatrist and author M. Scott Peck explains that this is what happens to individuals in times of stress: “The problem is that the role of the follower is the role of the child. The individual adult as individual is master of his own ship, director of his destiny. But when he assumes the role of follower he hands over to the leader his power: his authority over himself as decision-maker. He becomes psychologically dependent on the leader as a child is dependent on its parents. In this way there is profound tendency for the average individual to emotionally regress as soon as he becomes a group member” (from ‘Group Dynamics: Dependency and Narcissism’ in The People of the Lie) (1998, 223). The grandiose narcissist Trump is the cult leader par excellence. His self-appointed place as saviour of the vulnerable/misunderstood/side-lined makes him a ‘perfect’ leader in a #post-truth world!

Bibliography:
Baudrillard, Jean. The Intelligence of Evil or the Lucidity Pact. Oxford and New York: Berg, 2005.
Foucault, Michel. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Press, 1980.
Foucault, Michel. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. London and NewYork: Routledge, 2005.

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.

[pause]

[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.

[pause]

[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]

[pause]

[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


Architecture
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”.
 
Walking
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.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Driftmine Articles


Driftmine was an online “multi-authored publication interested in the psychological, psychosocial or psychogeographical aspects of politics, society and culture. It is interested in what the political has to do with the psychological, and how anxiety, shame, and love (or its absence) influence the way our society is”. The project has now reached its end so I am just posting a new link to my own articles that were originally published there:

Heterotopias of Compensation: Travis Elborough’s a Walk in the Park
Published 19 July 2016
This review-essay takes a Foucauldian look at the park by looking at it through the lens of the heterotopia. Click here for the full article.

Setting Up a World: Phenomenology and Cultural Amnesia in General Orders No.9
Published 18 May 2016
By using the theory of Heidegger this review-essay examines specific tropes in the film that relate to cultural forgetting. Click here for the full article.

When is a Ley Line Not a Ley Line?
Published 4 June 2015
This article looks at the phenomenon of the perambulatory hinge. Comparing it to the ley line, the author uses examples in Birmingham to discuss this psychogeographical concept. Click here for the full article.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

What is presupposed actualization?

presuppose 1 to believe that a particular thing is true before there is any proof of it 2 to make something necessary if a particular thing is to be shown to be true or false 
actualize 1 to make something real or actual 2 to portray or represent something realistically – actualization 
Bloomsbury Concise English Dictionary

Presupposed actualization (PA) is the desire, ability and will to create potential realities. It works via the consciousness (and unconscious) of those involved in a particular project or programme who have a shared investment in its outcome. While operating seemingly abstractly via the psyche of the individuals, PA’s effects mean that those most invested in the programme already exist in the future space of the (to be) realised project, whether this is unconscious or not. This means that, in a sense, the completed project already exists.

PA is not the same as belief or will, even though it utilises them in order to reach its fruition. Rather, it is the projection of the finalised product as it appears in mind and how this vision unconsciously operates via discourse in order to make it a reality. The repeating of tropes (for example: how they appear in what Foucault calls ‘statements’), the physical act of inscribing words and images that support the mission at hand, and the circulation of significant motifs in the wider community, all unconsciously create schemas that help to concretise the outcome. In an Althusserian sense we can describe this as being material in that the procedures that underpin the discourse exist in an apparatus that creates subjects specific to the cause. The ideology is driven through the material practices of communicating, operating on the subjects reflexively, and on the future proactively, such that the result is manifest in advance.