What is psycho-geography?
The term ‘Psychogeography’ was coined by a French thinker, Guy Debord, founder of a group called the Situationists, in the 1950s. Debord wanted to understand how urban environments affected the emotional and behavioural responses of human beings. Since then the concept has been used by many artists and writers for a host of projects that have expanded the scope of psychogeography.
One version of psychogeography is “an attempt to understand a place by experiencing it at close range, and seeking to make a connection with the lives and the stories embedded in the place.” (Nick Gadd, author of the blog Melbourne Circle).
Another way to look at it is to think about psychogeography as embracing any or all of the secret, personal, emotional connections between people and places.
- Do you have a particular emotional response when you visit certain places?
- Are you drawn to places that seem to resonate with a sense of loss?
- Are you interested in the layers of time and stories embedded in certain locations?
- Are you curious about things that are overlooked, neglected and forgotten?
All of this could be regarded as psychogeography.
There cannot be said to be any single definition today, but the words on the slide above are some of the key elements that psychogeographers tend to return to and be fascinated by.
How might we apply these ideas to our own urban wanderings?
Examples of old signage (ghostsigns) are windows back into the past, evocative traces of lost histories.
Also of interest are the informal ‘found texts’ that people write in their neighbourhoods:
Derelict and abandoned buildings evoke a sense of loss:
While street art can lend a sense of surreality to a streetscape:
These are aspects of an urban or suburban environment that might sometimes be overlooked, but which are full of interest to psychogeographers. However, it is far from a definitive list. Everyone has their own personal fascinations. The important thing is to get out, on foot, observe and explore.
What have you observed in the local environment? Send us your stories and photos.
To learn more about psychogeography, check out the further reading list.
“Make a connection with the lives and stories embedded in the place.”