Archive for flâneur

‘Flâneur’ vs. ‘Dérive’

Posted in Critical theory, Psychogeography, Surrealism, Urban Exploration with tags , , , , , on January 21, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

The ‘Flâneur’ (approximatively equivalent to ‘roamer’, ‘wanderer’) was invented by Baudelaire and was a key figure in late 19th century and early 20th century decadent literary movement. It is a gentleman who strolls the city in order to experience it, as a detached, gently cynical observer. The flâneur is a passive figure, he observes the dynamics of the city from a disengaged point of view. Baudelaire called the flâneur ‘a botanist of the sidewalk’.

The Surrealists reused the concept, putting a greater emphasis on the role of random chances in the activity of ‘flânerie’. The Surrealist version of the flâneur was to devise experiments involving randomness and chances in order to experience the city without being blinded by mundanity. For example, follow beautiful female strangers across the city, or visit a city while guiding oneself using the map of another city. The ultimate Surrealist goal was to reach a higher level of truth by attaining the point where ‘reality’ and ‘surreality’ converge. By playing with random occurrences while strolling the city, the surrealist flâneur expected to gain a higher awareness of the city, beyong immediate reality. Therefore, the Surrealist flâneur is already a more active explorer than its decadent ancestor.

In ‘Theory of the Derive’, Guy Debord defines the concept of the ‘Dérive’ which he explicitly defines as opposed to ‘different from the classic notions of journey or stroll’. The ‘dérive [literally: “drifting”]’ is ‘a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances’ that ‘involves playful-constructive behaviour and awareness of psychogeographical effects’. The participants of a Dérive must ‘let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones.’ A Dérive implies the ‘domination of psychogeographical variations by the knowledge and calculation of their possibilities’. This phrasing has connotations of the scientific explorer, almost of the military strategist. Indeed, Debord compares the mindset of the Dérive to those of the ‘ecological science’, and the act of ‘Dérive’ is a tool in the Situationists’ revolutionary project.

Debord explicitly takes position against letting chance take a too important role in a Dérive, because ‘the action of chance is naturally conservative and in a new setting tends to reduce everything to habit or to an alternation between a limited number of variants. Progress means breaking through fields where chance holds sway by creating new conditions more favourable to our purposes.’

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Place – Tacita Dean & Jeremy Millar

Posted in Artists that inspire me, Contemporary Art, Photography, Psychogeography, Reading notes, Video with tags , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2010 by melaniemenardarts

The books surveys different interpretation of the theme “Place” in contemporary art. I found a few relevant critical quotes and artists whose practice is similar to mine.

The Stalker talking about the Zone in Andrei Tarkovsky’s film:
“Our moods, our thoughts, our emotions, our feelings can bring about change here. And we are in no condition to comprehend them. Old traps vanish, new ones take their place; the old safe places become impassable, and the route can either be plain and easy, or impossibly confusing. That’s how the Zone is. It may even seem capricious. But in fact, at any moment it is exactly as we devise it, in our consciousness… everything that happens here depends on us, not on the Zone.

P23:
“a romantic notion that the critic John Ruskin called the ‘pathetic fallacy’, the belief that the landscape might be made to mirror the emotional state of the person found within it.”

P38: Baudelaire on the flâneur
“The crowd is his element, as the air is that of the birds and water of fishes. His passion and his profession are to become one flesh with the crowd. For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world – such are a few of the slightest pleasures of the independent, passionate, impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define. The spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito.”

P40: Stan Douglas, Canadian artist made a 6 minute film “Le Détroit” that shows a black woman searching for an unknown object in an abandoned house. The film alludes to the economic problems that turned some parts of Detroit into ghost estates and dilapidated neighbourhoods. “The film is projected onto semi-transparent material, while its negative is projected – with a small time interval – upon the screen’s reverse, thereby emphasising the haunting nature of the narrative.”

http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/works/le-detroit/

P68: Sartre on the Fantastic
“The law of the fantastic condemns it to encounter instruments only. These instruments are not … meant to serve men, but rather to manifest unremittingly an evasive, preposterous finality. This accounts for the labyrinth of corridors, doors and staircases that lead to nothing, the innumerable signs that line the road and that mean nothing. In the “topsy-turvy” world, the means are isolated and posed for their own sake.”

P90: a blue-filter produces the day-for night effect from Hollywood films (‘la nuit américaine’)

P98: Rodney Graham took photographs of Aberdeen, hometown of Kurt Cobain, to show the dereliction of the city, and tacky objects of consumerism.

Aberdeen - rodney graham

P138: Chantal Akerman, Belgian film-maker makes documentary bordering on fiction.

“D’est” (From the East, 1993) shows a journey across Eastern Europe, ordinary people and places are filmed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QYByp84_6I

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogdA5s81uBc&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDJ3JiSwGYg&feature=related

“From the other Side” explore a small mexican town just outside the USA border where would-be-migrants wait before tempting the crossing, and the opinions of the inhabitants of Douglas, Arizona (on the other side) about the border policy.

P152: Janet Cardiff makes “audio-walks”: she writes a script inspired by mystery/film noir, then go for a walk in a chosen location where she records the script on tape.

P172: J.G. Ballard
“I noted the features of this silent world: the memory earasing white architecture; the enforced leisure that fossilized the nervous system; … the apparent absence of an[y?] social structure; the timelessness of a world beyond boredom, with no past, no future and a diminishing present. Perhaps this was what a leisure-dominated future would resemble? Nothing could ever happen in this affectless realm, where entropic drift calmed the surfaces of a thousand swimming pools.”