“In the modern city the man of the crowd must adapt or perish…. he refuses to be alone”
– Merlin Coverley, ‘Psychogeography’, 2006.
In 1950’s Paris, psychogeography was born. This is effectively “the study of the specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals” (Guy Debord, ‘Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography’, 1955.) The ideology is therefore concerned with how built, urban spaces affect our psyche, and ultimately how we feel on a daily basis. Debord proposed that life should be viewed as a continuous ‘dérive’ (literally drift), which then became an essential part of the psychogeographic method. He was part of a movement known as the Lettrists International which went on to become the Situationists. They partook in experimental activities, which “linked to the condition of urban society: a technique of transient passage through varied ambiences” (Ken Knabb, ‘Situationist International Anthology’). The term ‘ambience’ refers to the feeling or mood that a certain place can evoke within, and can also refer to a certain place itself.
To communicate a ‘sense of place’ within this piece of work, Chris and I felt it important to ground ourselves with an understanding of psychogeographical techniques and theories. Much like how the Situationists strived to explore and comprehend their surroundings freely, we also desired to respond instinctively and spontaneously to our environment. This meant that our choice of framing was very much influenced by our environment, and ultimately by how it made us both feel.
Unlike the deconstructed maps that Debord and other Situationists proposed during the 50’s, our exploration of different locations was reliant upon their proximity to the floating harbour. This therefore meant we gave ourselves a working parameter in which to respond to, allowing for a more focussed ‘dérive’. Debord proposed that this was possible, and advocated fellow members of the movement to be “drawn through the city by the city” (Denis Wood).
‘Looking In, Looking Out’ is therefore concerned with exploration of the city from a new perspective, and also with the effect of water on the psyche. The rivalry between natural and manmade has concerned many artistic practitioners, and has influenced many pieces of work. Koyaanisqatsi by Godfrey Reggio for example focuses on the collision between technological advances and the natural world. The act of walking does however, seem to be the preferred mode of transport and act of exploration:
“Walking makes for content; footage for footage.”
(Robert MacFarlane, ‘A Road of One’s Own’)