In Defense of Walking

I came across an old project the other day – a documentation of my thought processes and the texts that led to the creation of Pedestrian City.

Excerpts from “Fragments in Psychogeography and the Spectacle of Everyday Life” – August 2006

A reflection on process:

What began as an exploration of Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle and a desire to illustrate a select number of theses became a series of reflections and quotes about urban life, with several of the theses and a small collection of photos interspersed throughout.

A few ideas from Rebecca Solnit and Jane Jacobs:

There is a heightened sense of time when one is walking (or using other forms of active transportation), where things must be planned and scheduled in advance, and about the sense of place that can only be experienced on foot.  Many people live in a series of interiors (fragments) – home, car, gym, office, shops – disconnected from each other, moving between spaces in cars. Walking enables everything to stay connected, for while walking one occupies the spaces between those interiors in the same way one occupies those interiors.  While walking, one lives in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it.

Cities offer anonymity, variety, chance encounters and coincidence – qualities best experienced on foot.  A city always contains more than any inhabitant can know, and a great city always makes the unknown and the possible stimulate the imagination…

Car dependency and gentrification threaten to disperse established urban populations and/or disrupt social networks.  What is needed are efforts to reinstate a sense of community building and local social networks; decrease reliance on the automobile and make the city more walkable.  The city should be a place of unmediated encounters, not large suburbs – segregated and designed for the non-interactions of motorists moving between private places rather than the interaction of pedestrians in public ones.

If the social, political and infrastructural networks that promote active transportation are in place, public spaces will occur organically as people begin to take pleasure in the small details of the city and the spaces in-between buildings.

“We need to envisage a  new cultural project that encompasses democracy, sociability, adaptations of time, space and the body, life beyond the commodity, and the slow transformation of everyday life…Let everyday life become a work of art! How such a critical sensibility might actually be achieved has been the point of departure for a succession of twentieth-century artistic and political movements – none the more influential than the Situationist International, whose desire for the revolution of everyday life led to activities to illuminate the enfeebling mediocrity of normal life.  The Situationists believed that Only an awareness of the influences of the existing environment can encourage the critique of the present conditions of daily life, and yet it is this concern with the environment in which we live which is ignored…Spatial formation and usage are critical determinants of urban understanding.” – Iain Borden

“The street is more than just a place for movement and circulation.  The invasion of the automobile and the pressure of the automobile lobby have turned the car into a key object, parking into an obsession, traffic into a priority, harmful to social life.  The day is approaching when we will be forced to limit the rights and powers of the automobile.” – Henri Lefebvre

Photography and Psychogeography

(ideas from a variety of sources)

Photography is more than a means of exploration and documentation; it is a representation of something that is always already seen, a representation that makes one question the significance of an image, what it signifies, and why the photographer chooses to produce pictures that say something about the social world.  The photographer can be imagined as a wanderer, wandering purposefully like a hunter-gatherer with the camera a sort of basket laden with the day’s spectacles, the photographer gathers the fruits of those walks, the fruits of their psychogeographical wanderings.

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