In psychogeography, a dérive is an unplanned journey through a landscape, usually urban, on which the subtle aesthetic contours of the surrounding architecture and geography subconsciously direct the travellers, with the ultimate goal of encountering an entirely new and authentic experience. Situationist theorist Guy Debord defines the dérive as “a mode of experimental behavior linked to the conditions of urban society: a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances.” The dérive grants a rare instance of pure chance, an opportunity for an utterly new and authentic experience of the different atmospheres and feelings generated by the urban landscape.

In his study Paris et l’agglomération parisienne (Bibliothèque de Sociologie Contemporaine, P.U.F., 1952) Chombart de Lauwe notes that “an urban neighborhood is determined not only by geographical and economic factors, but also by the image that its inhabitants and those of other neighborhoods have of it.” The process of defamiliarization disentangles things from cultural conventions and symbolic systems, and restores their perceptual immediacy, a vivid sense of their materiality. Defamiliarizing the urban landscape discloses the possibility that things might be different—bringing light to the hidden agency of objects and boundaries to suggest new ways of practicing enclosure, framing, and spatial attentiveness.

Posted: August 12th, 2013
Categories: Detour/Dérive
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