zondag 5 juni 2011

A beginners guide to the drift


A journalist emailed me for a contribution to a 'beginners guide to drifting'. Only a deranged mugwump on a unicycle would dare to present him/herself in public as an expert on the art of getting lost and to someone who feels the latent desire to drift I would suggest to follow it up before the planet dissolves in thermonuclear meltdown: you don't need anybody else to tell you how to have fun. 

On the other hand: there is a tradition and a history to 'the drift' and this means that there exists a body of methods and techniques for everybody to inspect, use and be inspired by. Here are the categories I can come up with but let's call this a first draft ok?

The make-it-up-as-you-go walk
Start walking in any direction you want and decide where to go next at every crossroad. There is a story of Andre Breton, Luis Aragon and two other Surrealists walking through France somewhere in the 1930ties (?) on this principle.  

The chase walk
Decide on a target (people, animals, smells, etc) and follow it. Great fun with immense potential to reveal the ordinary secrets of random things. Walking a turtle (Baudelaire) or a lobster (De Nerval) might or might not be part of this category.

The derangement-of-the-senses walk
Take excessive drugs and walk and walk and walk: conceptually simple, well established (Dada, Benjamin, DeQuincey, hordes of homeless and clubbers), hard to remember.

The map-and-the-territory walk
Maps are meant to help you find your way in a place you are unfamiliar with. But they can also be used to defamiliarize yourself with a place you do know. From Situationist writing on Unitary Urbanism comes the example of navigating through Paris on a map of London.  The trick is not in the map itself but in the interpretative act of mixing the abstract and the concrete in order to create an itinerary from the conflicts that arise between the two.

The restrained walk
Draw an imaginary line on the map and follow it: walk the invisible course of hidden rivers or metrolines or sewage pipes or occult powerlines. Iain Sinclair used this in his psychogeo classic Lights out for the Territory. Richard Long has a piece in which in drew a circle on the map and walked all roads it enclosed.

The really-I-must-buy-a-pencil walk
Take to the streets under some false pretence ("I really need a new pencil") and "indulge safely in the greatest pleasure of town life -- rambling the streets". Presented as the great escape from daily sorrows by Virginia Woolf in her story "Street Haunting" this type of walk reinvents Benjamin's flaneur without the dandified posturing. 


The generative walk
Best known by its haiku: second left, first right, third left, repeat. The terms of this formula are at will and the principle it establishes can be extended into the formation of pedestrian computers. This is blowing my own trumpet so other psychogeo hacks might fail to include it despite its independently verified psychogeographic power.

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