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||| Psychogeographical mapping of coincidence in Leeds and Dortmund: Introduction |||
Opening statement of the Leeds-Dortmund Project. Indicates full scope of the project, constituent components & gives an indication of its aims.
Psychogeography: The study of the precise effects of geographical setting, consciously managed or not, acting directly on the mood and behaviour of the individual.The Superimposed City Tours project has been stalled for some time. Organism artist Graeme Murrell was due to begin work on the project late in 2001, but had to put it on hold due to ill health. Now the project has received an unexpected boost in the form of funding from Pavilion, a multimedia arts group based in Leeds; and support from the Royal Armouries in Leeds, the University of Huddersfield and the hARTware Projekte in Dortmund. So the project, which was initially intended to superimpose the town of Huddersfield with Leeds and York has transformed: the superimposition will be of Leeds and Dortmund. Here's a brief introduction to the project.
Leeds and Dortmund are twinned cities. Amongst other implications of the twinning process is the suggestion that the two cities share certain common features. This inferred commonality is most apparent in the case of Leeds/Dortmund with respect to their industrial backgrounds. However, the implication of commonality between twin towns is often largely erroneous, more a product of wishful thinking and bureaucratic intent than genuine characteristics. Superimposition of Leeds and Dortmund may tease out spatial similarities that suggest shared physical and psychological characteristics, or it may expose striking differences in the psychogeography of each city.
Both cities share the historical common ground of having been involved in conflict, most noticeably during the First & Second World Wars. What is being shared in these instances is chronological territory: the same period of time being spent by both places engaged in the process of war. Declaration of mutual habitation of chronological territory suggests a realisation of Paul Virilio's assertion that geographical development is increasingly following chronological rather than spatial lines. The twinning movement after the Second World War was an attempt to reconcile differences in shared time.
However, the effects of war are inscribed upon the physical territory of Leeds and Dortmund. The physical characteristics of each place were forced to change, both in response to the war economy for which both became production centres, and by the physical damage inflicted upon them. In some places the effects of these changes is still apparent - Dortmund, like many German cities, requiring extensive rebuilding and restructuring after the war - in others, it must be sought out and discovered.
Physical changes wrought by war on the urban environment provoke psychological effects upon the populace. The utilisation of many places changes; some spaces become damaged beyond recognition; people traverse new routes through the city and are forced to respond differently to the built environment. This has been noticeable in recent urban battlegrounds like Sarajevo, where it has been possible to map the changing utility of the urban landscape and attempt to relate this to the mood of the populace, with sometimes startling differences from one neighbourhood to another. In the case of Sarajevo, the effect of war can be mapped onto the third dimension of height: tower blocks with no access to water and relatively inaccessible due to malfunctioning lifts became depopulated on the upper levels, except for snipers and military surveillance purposes.
Brief outline of project:
The shared chronological territory of wartime forms a common theme in the relationship between Leeds and Dortmund. By superimposing maps of Dortmund and Leeds, shared instances of the spatial inscriptions of war may be exposed. The focus will be upon the Second World War, it being the most recent irruption in time shared by the two cities. The war and its aftermath form a period of psychogeographical upheaval during which the relationship of the populace of both cities to their respective built environments was radically changed.
The project has three distinct phases:
Phase I: Research:
Each city is to be investigated in order to locate certain places of particular significance in this process. An indicator of significance may be a photograph, written or spoken testimony, major architectural change or transformation of utility, or significant changes in the directions of flow of people through a space. The focus is to be on spaces that sustained damage, places of war production and spaces which are seen to have particular resonance in terms of their monumental value or in the restructuring of the post-war environment.
Methods of research will include accessing written & photograph archives; history books & magazine articles; books/articles about the built environment/architecture of each city; photographs taken by myself; personal notes & environmental audio recordings made while walking around each city; discussions with historians, architects & other interested parties. If anybody in Dortmund is reading, and would like to get involved in research at that end, please get in touch - I can't speak/read German so this would be really useful.
Once spaces have been found in each city, and interrogated with regard to their psychogeographical imprint, the process of superimposition can be performed. The intention is to find points of significance that overlap. These form nodes, in what is effectively a third, virtual space, which is a composite of the two spaces. The nodes suggest shared spatial indicators, represented by the coincidence of their realisation. They may display similarities, or marked differences. By considering the nature of each node, and the combination of nodes across the superimposition, elements of shared wartime experience are exposed.
Phase II: Guided Walks:
Unitary urbanism: the theory of the combined use of art and technology leading to the integrated construction of an environment dynamically linked to behavioural experiments.The intention is to use the superimposition to then physically engage with the shared virtual environment of Leeds/Dortmund. This is to be achieved by conducting a walk/walks which take in the nodes of intersection, with relevant information to hand that enables discourse between participants on the walk. Participants become informed flaneurs, drifting within defined parameters. Such "calculated application of a certain number of concrete techniques" 1 applies process to the walk reinscribed as purposeful derive.
By walking around both places, considering the superimposition of one place over the other at each spatial node, and imposing a narrative dependant on wartime transformation, urban enquiry will be motivated by the defined guidelines in order to produce interesting revelations. A similar practice of focused derives is currently being played out by participants in the Hot Summer of Generative Psychogeography 2 announced by sOCIALFICTION.org.
Who is the third that walks beside you?Navigating the fictional third city by walking around Leeds, the walkers see Dortmund rewritten via a shared narrative of coincidence and conjecture, visible through Quicktime windows - 360 degree panoramas on a laptop taken on the walk. The laptop will also include written, photographic & audio files relating to each node. Participants will be able to add comments/observations while on the walk. All written material to be available in both English & German language versions.
What are the effects of superimposed geographical setting on the mood and behaviour of the walkers? What do the walkers bring to the event in terms of personal baggage that may interact with the environment in unforeseen ways? The situation can be reversed by re-enacting the walk in Dortmund - Leeds & Dortmund walks being treated like home & away matches - and different psychogeographical results observed.
Each walk to culminate in a brief discussion about the day's events - perhaps at Pavilion in Leeds & hARTware after a Dortmund walk, or other appropriate venues. These to be confirmed.
Phase III: Exhibition
Once walks have been conducted, their results will be collated to add to the information base for future walks, and form the basis for an exhibition. The exhibition will be at the Royal armouries in Leeds in 2003, and afterwards at a space to be agreed in Dortmund. The nature and composition of the exhibition is still to be decided.
Thanks are due to the following people at this early stage in the project:
David Gilbert (formerly at Pavilion) and Nicola Hutcheson at Pavilion. Vaughan Allen at the Royal Armouries. Derek Hales at the University of Huddersfield. Hans Christ and Iris Dressler at hARTware Projekte. Sarah Bowers at Leeds City Council.
1. Guy Debord, 'Introduction to a critique of urban geography'
2. sOCIALFICTION.org, 'Call for collaboration in the Hot Summer of Generative Psychogeography'