In the practice of the Situationist International, psychogeography is defined as the study of the specific effects of the geographical (and topographical) environment, whether consciously organised or not, on people’s emotions and behaviour.
Debord and his Situationist International colleagues proposed a set of cultural strategies to combat and subvert the commodification of everyday life under contemporary capitalism, of which psychogeography was part. Psychogeography draws attention to the emotional or psychic aspects of urban experience, and to the spontaneous encounter with and reflection on this experience.
Debord associates two key strategies with psychogeographical practice: ‘derive’ and ‘detournement’.
The figure of the psychogeographer has obvious affinities with the earlier idea of the urban flaneur and draws also on the ideas of the surrealists on the modern city, as explored, notably, in Louis Aragon’s Paris Peasant (1926) and Andre Breton’s Nadja (1928), both set in Paris. (Brooker, 2003: 2010)
The film below presents a portrait of Timothy ‘Speed’ Levitch, a tour guide whose embodiment of ‘cruising’ enacts the spirit of psychogeography.
Bonnett, A. (1992). Art, ideology, and everyday space: subversive tendencies from Dada to postmodernism. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 10 (1), pp.69–86.
Brooker, P. (2003). A Glossary of Cultural Theory, 2nd ed. London, UK: Arnold.
edited 2 February, 2019 by Allan Parsons