Psychogeography – Where Psychology and Geography Collide.

Before beginning to create my own psychgeography maps from which to take inspiration for works from I began with some research into what psychogeography is, where it came from and its who its practitioners are. I am currently reading the book ‘Psycogeography’ by Merlin Coverley which is an introduction to psychogeography and an analysis of its key figures and their works.

I shall present my notes as they are recorded in my sketch book.

  • Psychogeography  has resisted definition through a shifting series of interwoven themes – constantly reshaped by practitioners.
  • It is a literary movement, a political strategy, a series of new age ideas, a set of avant-garde practises and much more.
  • The bigger more well known names associated with it are: Guy Debord and the Situationist’s, Iain Sinclair, Peter Ackroyd, Stewart Home, Will Self.
  • Origins – Paris, 1950’s by the Lettrist group a forerunner of the Situatuionists International.
  • Under Guy Debord it was a tool attempting to transform urban life, firstly for aesthetic purposes then increasingly as time went on for political ends.
  • Debord’s oft-repeated definition ‘ The study of the specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals.’
  • Psychogeography – Where geography and psychology collide.
  • psychogeography – Explaining behavioural impact of urban place.
  • Situationists adopted a rigorous and scientific approach.
  • Surrealists used a more playful and subjective approach and methods.
  • Amongst the melange of ideas, events and identities predominant characteristics can be recognised:
  1. The act of walking.
  2. Political opposition to authority/ political radicalism.
  3. Playful sense of provocation and trickery.
  4. Search for new ways of apprehending the urban environment
  5. Overcoming banalisation.
  • The literary tradition of London writing as a precursor to psychogeography including writers such as Defoe, de Quincey, Robert Louis Steverson  and Arthur Machen. A uniformly dark picture of the city. 
  • Sinclair and Ackroyd tend (particularly representative of this) to dramatise the city (mostly London) as a place of dark imaginings.
  • Most contemporary psychogeography approximates more to form of local history than to any geographical investigation.
  • Iain Sinclair said ‘ William Blake is ‘the Godfather of psychogeography’ with his emphasis on the imaginative reconstruction of the city (London) : the transformation of familiar landscapes/ cityscapes of his own time and place into a transcendent image of the eternal city.

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