There is a specter haunting Europe, nay, the world. The spectre of psychogeography. For 30 years the fingers of the stranglehold of tradition have, one by one, been peeled back by the eruption of exciting new non-Euclidean psycho-social spaces. Rock and Roll, the permissive society, a new Iiberalism existing in the social sphere have all provided a decompression chamber where the pent-up frustrations engendered by class society can be productively put to use in the engine rooms of new design, new fashion and faddish revolt. Centred upon youth as a source of naivety, the vital forces of the collective imagination are channelled into an economic subsistence, which provides a pool of talent amongst which established organisations and businesses can fish for new faces and new ideas. However, as the Gay Liberation Front has given way to the ‘Pink Pound’, as the Black Panthers have been replaced by the Fruits of Islam, as the delusions of Mao-tse-tung have been superseded by the Shanghai Stock Exchange, so the integration of non-Euclidean psycho-social space into a post-Newtonian mechanics is faced by the emergence of an anti-Euclidean opposition which will rekindle the fires of revolt with the matchsticks of metaphor. By drawing upon ancient songlines which reassert themselves within the modern urban environment, psychogeography as the practical application of anti-Euclidean psycho-geometry offers the third pole in the triolectic between the false universalism of modernism and the universal virtuality of post-modernism.
Psychogeography is universalism with attitude. It is universalism which does not seek to express itself in words, which remains nothing more than signposts in the wilderness. Psychogeography investigates the intersection of time and space, and hence attacks science at its point of weakness – the replicability of results. Psychogeography is the universalism of the specific, of the particular, i.e. at its point of dissolution.
Psychogeography places itself beyond democracy. There is no process of sifting through everyone’s experience of daily life to reproduce it as a soap opera, a political programme or a college doctorate. There is not so much an immersion of private life in the social sphere, but an invasion of the public sphere by the passions which have hitherto been confined to the privatised world of the atomised individual. Whereas democracy synthesises the desires of the citizens, psychogeography is one antithetical pole among many which realises the conflict between our idealised role as citizens and our subjectivity arising from the material conditions of our life. By suspending the ‘common sense’ as we move from location to location in our daily life, we can rediscover the wilderness within the city. By exploring those areas we have no good reason to be in we can discover the reasons we are constrained to certain areas.
But this layer of psychogeographical activity soon reveals other layers. Questions of gender of race, of access for people with disabilities soon arise. Any specific locality does not have a unique character. It is not just that a woman may relate differently to a place than a man, but that a woman’s presence (or even the presence of a horde of women) can transform that place. Normality no longer functions as a global variable, it can only exist as the production of the functioning of a particular power at a particular place. The restructuring of capital has displaced the linear organisation of power with a cybernetic web of centres of excellence which survive as idyllic islands in a sea of chaos. Access to such locations is the product of wealth, and poverty is the exclusion from even the simplest forms of shelter, food and sociability.
Psychogeography is not a substitute for class struggle, but a tool of class struggle. When kids from council estates wander into posh housing areas they are immediately harassed by the police. They get accused of being burglars even before they had a chance to break into the first house. The police impose a rationality: they force us to explain why we are at a particular place. They only accept conventional explanations in terms of economic activity (even visiting relatives boils down to economics, as the family is precisely the conjunction of private life with the economic sphere). Psychogeography is always an uneconomic, even anti-economic, activity.
The publications of the London Psychogeographical Association forthrightly present a reconstruction of urban life using the principles of anti-Euclidean psychogeometry. We shall always present our material in the rhetoric of the most rigid dogmatism, as the greatest care in its development always ensures the rigour necessary for the presentation of correct ideas. Some critics have derived from this that we seek to assert our unique viewpoint as determinant over social reality, or that we wish to compete with rival social determinations. Such critics clearly have failed to understand what we are doing. Our publications are always secondary in relation to the more pressing concern of psychogeographic activity itself.
London Psychogeographical Association
Box 15,138 Kingsland High Street
London, E8 2NS, England