Friday, September 29, 2006

The Naked City - Map Portraits

'Unlike what most people think psychogeography is really very simple: the moment you first step into a room you immediately, without conscious effort, have a heartfelt opinion about it. Psychogeography is the study of the 'stuff' that causes this mental reaction and the psychological and behavioural effects that are evoked by it.' more

Brian Collier Movement Patterns: Human Life as a Series of Lines map-portraits 'Tracking an individual's regular movements can be both uncomfortably intimate and frigidly anonymous. In this project I create a series of map-portraits based on several individual people habitual weekly travels. These maps are intended as the sole description of each subject's life, paring away any additional events or behaviors.'

'The presentation of these map-portraits intentionally suggests a cold, removed observer studying an anonymous subject. This appearance of scientific objectivity works in direct opposition to the fact that I personally know all the individuals represented. Furthermore, the initial maps were made by those individuals themselves rather than an outside observer. There is an underlying intimacy, evoked only subtly, when the viewer notices the flesh-like quality of the hand-waxed paper or the use of only first names of participants.'

"One of the issues that inspired this project is the contemporary paradox of feeling both invisible and overly visible: the ever-increasing anonymity of an individual meets the ever-increasing exposure of his or her life in environments affected by high-technology tracking, surveillance, and profiling. The more information that an organization has about an individual, the more likely it is that he or she will be reinvented and renamed as a number in a database. Government agencies and businesses have developed ways to categorize and classify an individual based on data collected from a variety of sources. ."

"..From an aesthetic perspective one may consider the movement lines on the maps as representing large-scale process drawings made unconsciously by the body of each person as he or she moves through a local environment. These drawings, arguably made by people everywhere as they move through space, remain unrealized unless monitored and documented.. "

"...The issue of tracking movements has taken on new implications in the era of "The War on Terrorism." The recent increase in surveillance and the new powers given to the government to monitor citizens lives create questions about the limits of freedom and privacy. In news debates and private life, people commonly worry that their lives may be "invaded." During the creation of this work, in fact, several participants expressed discomfort, saying that the collection of data about their movements felt intrusive."


During the last weekend of Marchs the first session of the 'Hot Summer of Psychogeography' (2002) took place in Amsterdam. Socialfiction, the organisers, sent participants on their way from Dam Square with an algorithmic description of the route. The same experiment was repeated later in the day in the Bijlmer district.

Dérive through Utrecht

read this as well

Situationist Guy Debord devised the notion of psychogeography in the 1950s. It deals with the study of the exact laws and specific effects of our geographic environment. Psychogeography describes the sudden change in atmosphere a few metres further along a street, and the different characteristics of city districts. It reveals the path of least resistance a person subconsciously takes when wandering aimlessly and points out the attraction or repulsion of particular places. One of Situationism's practices is the dérive (literally: wandering or drifting), a technique of rapid passage through varied environments. Involving playful-constructive behaviour, dérive examines psychogeographical effects and is thus quite different from the classic notions of journey and routing. Dérives weren't random; they challenged the psychogeographer to use his powers of imagination to experience the urban environment anew - for example, by following scents or negotiating a route through Paris armed with a map of London. What propelled these strollers was not so much curiosity but political and theoretical motivations>>>


Imagine if you were walking in an unfamiliar area of town and suddenly you realized that it was very dark and the shadows looked distinctly unfriendly. But what if you had a map, a map that clearly marked out entire sections of the city as safe, or peaceful or even scary. Such a map would be dramatically different from normal maps, in that the data being presented is no longer merely objective, but also subjective. Welcome to the new world of psychogeography. Psychogeography is an umbrella term used to refer to a number of different ways to explore cities and towns. This new field is still emerging and like any new genre there is still a sense of uncertainty. Most definitions hover around the issues of maps and people’s responses to urban spaces and surroundings. The most accessible one is as follows: Psychogeography is the hidden landscape of atmospheres, histories, actions and characters which charge environments. But there is a basic thread running through all the various versions of psychogeography, and that is the generation of maps. These are maps that challenge all preconceived notions about maps. Psychogeographic maps presenting maps that may or may not be objective. A case in point is 'mental mapping'. These are maps generated by individuals walking along areas in the city and recording emotions. The resulting map is more than a physical record of distances travelled, it is also a record of the internal state of mind of the map maker. Other kinds of mental maps include maps made from memory alone. Some maps even overlay several such mental maps and the final result is a unique perspective of hitherto familiar areas. The newness of this field also leads to widely differing methods of map making. By far the most commonly used method is something known as "Generative algorithms". This involves the establishing of a predetermined method of walking, and the psychogeographers follow such algorithms in order to explore the city in new ways. Typically, the rules for walking would involve just a series of instructions such as turn right, and then the second left, etc etc, and soon the participants would end up in places they would never have consciously chosen to go to. Another example of this new way of walking is using a map of, say, City A, and follow it in City B. Or by randomly following a person on the street and observing the route he/ she takes. While these projects seem to push the boundaries of maps further, one is tempted to ask what use is it all? For this we have to wait and see. But for sure, the city will no longer be something that lies in-between their houses and offices, instead there is likely to be a renewed interest in the concept of being an urban dweller. Dinesh Rao


nicecutelindasue said...


Dinesh Rao said...

hi! Toda raba! I was pleasantly surprised to see my name in this post. Love yr blog!

Anonymous said...

Great blog, thanks for the interest in my work.

I have a new site up now and it would be great if you could change the "Human Movement Patterns" link to its new page:

Brian D Collier

Moon River said...

Brian, i just notice your comment, and changed the link as you asked

Anonymous said...

I would like to read more soon. BTW, rather nice design you have at this blog, but what do you think about changing it once in a few months?

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