Brief for 11/19 (Psychogeography)

Siobhan Lyons wrote an article called bringing awareness to psychogeography. Psychogeography is a combination of psychology and geography with a focus on “our psychological experiences of the city, and reveals or illuminates forgotten, discarded, or marginalized aspects of the urban environments” (Lyons). In order to understand the psychogeography of a city, one should lose themselves in the city, or “drift,” or wander with no specific purpose. Through these actions, people can better understand the city and its history.

How might psychogeography be relevant to our class in regards to the System? To use psychogeography to understand the history of a history is like revealing the ghosts. For example, visitors are unaware that Beckton Alps, a recreational space, was once a garbage heap. We can also use the example described in the article about Sydney where Marks Park in Bondi was a scene of homophobic attacks in the 1980s, except due to the new Sculptures by the Sea, “history [was] written over and unnoticed by tourists, and forgotten by locals” (Lyons). These are the ghosts of the city, representing the ugly side of history that is forgotten. Often times, these ghosts represent moments of rebellion or oppression or any moment where either the System was challenged or the ugly truth of the System was revealed. In order to maintain power and control, the System covers up these ghosts so that people may continue to live their lives without questioning norms.

Not only does the System attempt to cover up these stories or ghosts, but it also has created a society that values the culture of production. The System has distracted us with the pressure of using our time “productively.” It discourages the practice of idleness because it does not want us to think. Slouka states that “if we have no time to think, … then we are less citizens than cursors, easily manipulated, vulnerable to the currents of power” (Slouka 58). This culture created by the System prevents us from ever feeling the need to walk or wander with no purpose, which would lead us to discovering psychogeography. The only time we ever walk is if we are working towards something, whether it be to arrive at a destination to do work or to exercise in order to achieve a workout goal.

Perhaps something as simple as a casual walk can serve as a challenge to the System, so one can be “an insurgent against the contemporary world, an ambulatory time traveller” (Sinclair). Psychogeography “compels us to abandon – at least temporarily – our ordinary conceptions of the face value of a location, so that we may question its mercurial history” (Lyons). This made me think about the city of Richmond and all the history its people fail to see. After all, Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy, but all we seem to see in regards to the history is a couple of statues of Confederate soldiers. When I think of Richmond, I think of the modern, hip culture in the downtown area with lots of art and diversity, so what would I discover if I went on a walk? Would I discover its ghosts just by taking a walk or would I have to additionally do research to discover the history that has been covered up by these new buildings or the painted murals?

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