I have just finished reading Psychogeography by Merlin Coverley (ISBN 978-1-84243-347-8) as part of the suggested reading for my landscape module.
I found the book to be thoroughly interesting, full of fascinating insights and quotes from various people associated with the psychogeographical movement. I would certainly recommend it to anyone wishing to begin to understand the history behind psychogeography.
The introduction began with a quote by Robert MacFarlane, where he states-
“Psychogeography: a beginner’s guide. Unfold a street map of London, place a glass, rim down, anywhere on the map and draw round its edge. Pick up the map, go out into the city, and walk the circle, keeping as close as you can to the curve. Record the experience as you go, in whatever medium you favour: film, photograph, manuscript, tape. Catch the textual run-off of the streets; the graffiti, the branded litter, the snatches of conversation. Cut for sign. Log the data-stream. Be alert to the happenstance of metaphors, watch for visual rhymes, coincidences, analogies, family resemblances, the changing mood of the street. Complete the circle, and the record ends. Walking makes for content; footage for footage”
It may seem like rather a long quote, however on opening the book, this made the biggest impact on me. I have always enjoyed walking around the unknown, finding hidden shops etc in cities and towns, wondering what I would find it I went a particular way. I loved the idea of just drawing a circle on a map and following it. Who knows what you would see or find. This quote also, to me, what psychogeography was all about, exploring the behavioural impact of an urban landscape and overcoming the banal.
Within the book, they looked at psychogeography from 3 different points of view
- the mental traveller- who internalises his wandering from the safety of his armchair
- the flaneur- who strolls the streets to record the emergence of the modern city
- the stalker- who seeks to find the true nature that lies beneath the day-to-day environment
Throughout the book, I found myself being able to relate to what was being said in many different ways. For example, in the chapter “London and the Visionary Tradition”, they talked about psychogeography as a way of mapping out a city by sight. This lead me to think about how this could lead to a photographic memory, something I have always used as a way to find my way around. I could never tell anyone road names but while driving along, say to my grandparents, I could pick out various points to lead me there.