Situationists and the Flaneurs

February 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

‘The spectacle epitomises the prevailing model of social life. It is the omnipresent celebration of a choice already made in the sphere of production, and the consummate result of that choice. In form as in content the spectacle serves as total justiļ¬cation for the conditions and aims of the existing system.” – Guy Debord

We are looking to the Situationist movement, a group founded in 1957 in France whose roots laid in Marxism and sought to subvert the capitalist paradigm in daily life by employing artistic methodology to create a new dialogue about city life. The term psychogeography was borne out of this movement, as a way to study the psychological effects of a geographical environment.

Le Societe du Spectacle

The Situationists sought to dislodge the city inhabitant from their daily life, by engaging in derives, or aimless walks, that could last for any duration, so long as its sole purpose was to observe the city. The Situationist movement, in turn, informed much of the urban planning and architecture of the 20th century – by drawing light to the everyday experience of a city, urban planners and architects began to design with the population in mind, and moved away from designing for individual expression. The Situationists would also engage in methods of detournement – a reworking and working again of existing materials. This offers us a possible approach to our deliverables – by remixing and reworking, users of a city can voice their opinion, or simply mark their passage.

Evolving the Flaneur

February 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Through our research what became interesting was how Charles Baudelaire’s concept of the urban flaneur, has evolved from its inception. Initially born out of Baudelaire’s assertion that the modern artist of the 1850s was no longer equipped to address modernity and the complexities of emerging urban centres, he called from them to talk on the role of the sidewalk botanist, conscious observer and cataloguing agent for everyday life. The term he ascribed to this modern agent was the flaneur.

From Baudelaire, the urban flaneur evolved through the writings of Walter Benjamin. Benjamin saw the potential of the flaneur to become a tool for analysis. The perspective of the urban flaneur for Benjamin was parallel to that of the tourist, he was a man at the window rather than a man in the crowd. This perspective afforded critical vantage from which to see their own environment.

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