Thursday, October 8, 2009

A few reflections on walking a line, traveling through the city, experiencing spaces, encountering its inhabitants, mapping and building a sense of place.

It is not given to every (wo)man to take a bath of multitude; enjoying a crowd is an art; and only s/he can relish a debauch of vitality at the expense of the human species, on whom, in his cradle, a fairy has bestowed the love of masks and masquerading, the hate of home and the passion for roaming." Charles Baudelaire,excerpted in Taking a Line for a Walk: Walking as an Aesthetic Practice

"The Map is not the Territory" is a remark by Polish-American scientist and philosopher Alfred Korzybski, encapsulating his view that an abstraction derived from something, or a reaction to it, is not the thing itself, for example, the pain from a stone falling on your foot is not the stone; one's opinion of a politician, favorable or unfavorable, is not that person; and so on. A specific abstraction or reaction does not capture all facets of its source—e.g., the pain in your foot does not convey the internal structure of the stone, you don't know everything that is going on in the life of a politician, etc.—and thus may limit an individual's understanding and cognitive abilities unless the two are distinguished. Korzybski held that many people do confuse maps with territories, in this sense.

The Situationist International and the theory of the dérive (or drift)

Long a favorite practice of the dadaists, who organized a variety of expeditions, and the surrealists, the dérive, or drift, was defined by the situationists as the 'technique of locomotion without a goal', in which 'one or more persons during a certain period drop their usual motives for movement and action, their relations, their work and leisure activities, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there'. The dérive acted as something of a model for the 'playful creation' of all human relationships.

1969: Vito Acconci merges conceptual art, performance, psychology, paranoia and sexuality in Following Piece. Acconci followed selected strangers around the street until they went into a private place. Pieces lasted from a few minutes to several hours.

Richard Long: Walking a Line

acts as a primer on issues which the maps
and essays address: identity, land-use, imprisonment, energy, migration. The contributors define radical cartography as the practice of mapmaking that subverts conventional notions in order to actively promote social change. The object of critique in An Atlas of Radical Cartography is not cartography per se (as is generally meant by the overlapping term critical cartography), but rather social relations. Our criteria for selecting these ten maps emphasized radical inquiry and activist engagement.

Rebecca Solnit and her book Wanderlust: "walking is a mode of making the world as well as being in it," and it allows us to know "the world through the body and the body through the world."

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