Thursday, August 13, 2015

Psychogeography snapshot
from the City of York

Earlier this week, after dropping off some books at a Little Free Library and picking up an issue of National Geographic in return, I was driving through a York alley and was inspired to pause, get out of the car, and snap this photograph.

I didn't get quite the amount of sky I was looking for, but I still like the composition.

Psychogeography is a fascinating concept that is almost impossible to describe and for which there are numerous (and not necessarily agreed upon) intellectual definitions. I might explain it as: "To wander, without plan, in a locale, finding the things that make it unique and, optionally, recording your findings on whatever medium strikes your fancy (written word, photos, film, music)." But I am aware that my definition is too narrow and far too simplistic and perhaps also mostly incorrect.

In a 2010 Wired interview with writer Alan Moore there is an insightful bit about psychogeography that I've had bookmarked for a while: Speaking of psychogeography, what do you think of our current connections to our regional locations?

Moore: Well, I think that we need mythology. We need a bedrock of story and legend in order to live our lives coherently. I think that in the past a lot of our monotheistic religions have provided that, but that has become increasingly problematic throughout the 20th and 21st century so far. There’s a lot of luggage that comes with those beliefs, and there has been a lot to erode them. And that has left people completely disconnected from any sense of place and history. And I think our personhood: We define ourselves by our surroundings and our situations. If you are brought up in a neighborhood that resembles a rat trap, pretty soon you are going to come to the conclusion that you are probably a rat. If on the other hand you have got to the tool of psychogeography — or poetry, to give it a less trendy and more accessible name — then you can look at the ordinary world around you with the eye of a poet. Finding events which rhyme with other events, what little coincidences or connections can be drawn to these places and people. You can put them into an arrangement that says something new about them.

I like that description quite a bit, even if it doesn't necessarily get us any closer to a true definition of psychogeography. Maybe that's the point, though. It's psychogeography, so it's entirely what we choose to make of it. There are no wrong answers.

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1 comment:

  1. I love this a ton. Randomly, yesterday, we happened on a "poetry garden" in an alley in downtown York and I decided to take a photo, which I'll share on social media later today. And I didn't even know that was called something!