psychogeography {rural/urban}

What is Psychogeography? The practice arose in Paris in the 1950s by a group of artists and activists called the International Lettristes (later on members of this group formed the modern art movement called The Situationists). Author Phil Smith defines it as ” a study of how places affect the psychological states of those who pass through them. With a reciprocal meaning: that the places might be changed in order to change the experiences and mental states of the residents and visitors.” Closely linked with the concept of Psychogeography is the Derive or Drift-  wandering the streets without destination, being guided by the senses as a way of creating new narratives by the citizens, other than those that have been constructed for the citizens (e.g. by town planners).

Hunting the Soul of Winter is a rural psychogeographic project. Even though, by definition, psychogeography can be practised in either context, writer Bryonie Reid argues that it is almost always solely associated with urban environments. She believes that this is dangerous because it perpetuates the erroneous notion of the rural being a kind of unified utopia in opposition to the complexity of urban histories. “In actuality, all spaces are ramified, contested and interrelated; a rural psychogeography is not only possible but productive and, I suggest, necessary in order to avoid stunting the meaning of the rural.”

My walking as practice has shown Reid’s premise to be correct. The landscape is laden with history, prescription and perspectives. One of the practices often used in Psychogeography is mapping, and if you were to put my maps next to maps that Mama or the village hunter might conceive, they would undoubtedly show different interpretations of place. That is the psychological aspect connected with geography. There are still paths through the field (tractor paths) that dictate where to walk and stepping sideways from these renders different sensations. There is a different recognition of aspects of the landscape between a local and a foreigner, or a farmer and a hunter.

Smith states that the central idea in urban psychogeography was to introduce into the city the concept of play, not just consumerism or work. In the same way my drifts could be said to rewrite other meanings (such as play) onto fields that were constructed for industry.

Image credit | Morag Rose

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