Category Archives: Wandering

The Loiterers Resistance Movement (2006-), Manchester, England

[credit]

The LRM (Loiterers Resistance Movement) is a Manchester based collective of artists, activists and urban wanderers  interested in psychogeography, public space and the hidden stories of the city.

We can’t agree on what psychogeography means but we all like plants growing out of the side of buildings, looking at things from new angles, radical history, drinking tea and getting lost; having fun and feeling like a tourist in your home town. Gentrification, advertising and blandness make us sad. We believe there is magick in the mancunian rain.

Our city is wonderful and made for more than shopping. The streets belong to everyone and we want to reclaim them for play and revolutionary fun….

The LRM embark on psychogeographical drifts to decode the palimpsest of the streets, uncover hidden histories and discover the extraordinary in the mundane. We aim to nurture an awareness of everyday space, (re)engaging with, (re)mapping and (re)enchanting the city.

On the first Sunday of every month we go for a wander of some sort and we also organise occasional festivals, exhibitions, shows, spectacles, silliness and other random shenanigans. These range from giant cake maps to games of  CCTV Bingo. Information on forthcoming events is here. We were founded in 2006 by Morag Rose and 2016 we celebrated 10 years of creative mischief with Loitering With Intent: The Art and Politics of Walking at The Peoples History Museum.

Please walk with us, everyone is welcome. Our events are free and open to all: these are our streets and they are yours too.”

Michel de Certeau, “Walking in the City” from The Practice of Everyday Life (1980)

a white man in glasses and dark blazer

Michel de Certeau – French Jesuit philosopher and social theorist (1925-1986)

Certeau is often referenced for his essay, “Walking in the City,” in The Practice of Everyday Life (1980).

In this essay he elaborates on an analogy between urban systems and language, with improvisational walking (shortcuts, wandering, etc) being like turns of phrase, inside jokes, or stories. He states, “The act of walking is to the urban system what the speech act is to language or to the statements uttered.”

He describes the city as “a space of enunciation,” where walkers demonstrate possibilities through their walking choices. He states, “The walking of passers-by offers a series of turns and detours that can be compared to ‘turns of phrase’ or ‘stylistic figures.’ There is a rhetoric of walking.”

Jonathan L. Best writes a nice analysis of the essay here.

Walter Benjamin

Walter Benjamin 1928

Walter Benjamin 1928

General info

“Walter Benjamin’s [1892-1940] importance as a philosopher and critical theorist can be gauged by the diversity of his intellectual influence and the continuing productivity of his thought. Primarily regarded as a literary critic and essayist, the philosophical basis of Benjamin’s writings is increasingly acknowledged. They were a decisive influence upon Theodor W. Adorno’s conception of philosophy’s actuality or adequacy to the present (Adorno 1931). In the 1930s, Benjamin’s efforts to develop a politically oriented, materialist aesthetic theory proved an important stimulus for both the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory and the Marxist poet and dramatist Bertolt Brecht.” (credit – Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Flânerie-specific info

“In the twentieth-century Walter Benjamin returned to the concept of the flâneur in his seminal work, The Arcades Project.  This weighty, but uncompleted, study used Baudelaire’s flâneur as a starting point for an exploration of the impact of modern city life upon the human psyche.” …

“In The Arcades Project, Benjamin puts forward two complementary concepts to explain our human response to modern city life.  Erlebnis can be characterised as the shock-induced anaesthesia brought about by the overwhelming sensory bombardment of life in a modern city, somewhat akin to the alienated subjectivity experienced by a worker bound to his regime of labour.  Erfahrung is a more positive response and refers to the mobility, wandering or cruising of the flâneur; the unmediated experience of the wealth of sights, sounds and smells the city has to offer.  Benjamin was interested in the dialectic between these two concepts and cited Baudelaure’s poetry as a successful medium for turning erlebnis into erfahrung.  As Benjamin wrote in his section of Illuminations entitled On Some Motifs in Baudelaire:

The greater the share of the shock factor in particular impressions, the more constantly consciousness has to be alert as a screen against stimuli; the more efficiently it does so, the less do these impressions enter experience (Erfahrung), tending to remain in the sphere of a certain hour in one’s life (Erlebnis).

Walter Benjamin, ‘Illuminations’

For Benjamin, the environment of the city, in particular the arcades of Paris, provided the means to provoke lost memories of times past:

it is the material culture of the city, rather than the psyche, that provides the shared collective spaces where consciousness and the unconscious, past and present, meet.

Susan Buck-Morss, ‘The Flâneur, the Sandwichman and the Whore: The Politics of Loitering’


“What we can be clear about is that Benjamin does not just write about the flâneur but, in The Arcades Project, he writes as a flâneur.  As noted earlier, he metaphorises his textual practice into ragpicking, unearthing ‘the rags, the refuse’ from his extensive reading, his cutting and pasting from all manner of sources, into the text of this, his best known work.  The origins of The Arcades Project are in the textual detritus of Benjamin’s research; a method that echoes Baudelaire’s ragpicker and which he refers to when he writes that:

poets find the refuse of society on their street and derive their heroic subject from this very refuse. This means that a common type is, as it were, superimposed upon their illustrious type. … Ragpicker or poet — the refuse concerns both.

Walter Benjamin, ‘Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism’

The ragpicker is recurring motif in Benjamin’s writing and offers a useful metaphor for his textual methodology.  Benjamin focuses on the margins of the modern city, scavenging amongst the texts and oral histories that have been omitted or neglected. Literary ragpicking resurrects discarded texts, forming them into new texts.  Benjamin was interested not just in what is, but in what was and what might be.  He is looking for where the imagined city meets the material one.”

(credit)

Charles Baudelaire

Étienne Carjat, Portrait of Charles Baudelaire, circa 1862

Étienne Carjat, Portrait of Charles Baudelaire, circa 1862

General Info

“Charles Baudelaire was a French poet born on April 9, 1821, in Paris, France. In 1845, he published his first work. Baudelaire gained notoriety for his 1857 volume of poems, Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil). His themes of sex, death, lesbianism, metamorphosis, depression, urban corruption, lost innocence and alcohol not only gained him loyal followers, but also garnered controversy. The courts punished Baudelaire, his publisher and the book’s printer for offending public morality, and as such, suppressed six of the poems. Baudelaire died on August 31, 1867 in Paris.” (credit)

Flânerie specific info

“The concept of the flâneur, the casual wanderer, observer and reporter of street-life in the modern city, was first explored, at length, in the writings of Baudelaire.  Baudelaire’s flâneur, an aesthete and dandy, wandered the streets and arcades of nineteenth-century Paris looking at and listening to the kaleidoscopic manifestations of the life of a modern city.  The flâneur’s method and the meaning of his activities were bound together, one with the other. ” (credit)

Menhirs

menhir

Large menhir located between Millstreet and Ballinagree, County Cork, Ireland

Walking as an artistic practice has a long history. Scholars such as Francesco Careri trace this history back to early nomads and wanders. Careri calls out large stone markers called menhirs, erected in the Neolithic landscape throughout Egypt, Ancient Greece, and Western Europe. The menhirs have widely debated possible purposes connected to walking, such as “sacred paths, initiations, processions, games, contests, dances, theatrical and musical performances.” Careri specifically calls out menhirs as early architectural objects used by nomadic hunters and shepherds – people who relied heavily on walking. Art historians can spot material and scale-related connections between these rocky menhirs and Land Art walking practices of the 20th century.

 

SOURCE: Careri, Francesco. Walkscapes: Walking as an Aesthetic Practice. Culicidae Architectural Press: 2017.

Flânerie (To be a Flâneur/Flâneuse)

Paul Gavarni, Le Flâneur, 1842

Paul Gavarni, Le Flâneur, 1842

The ‘Flâneur’/‘Flâneuse’ (‘roamer’ or ‘wanderer’) is a person who strolls the city in order to experience it, as a detached, gently cynical observer. (credit) There is an idleness attached to flânerie. The flâneur is a passive figure, they observe the dynamics of the city from a disengaged point of view. While the idea originated with Charles Baudelaire, it was Walter Benjamin who popularized it and connected it to the idea of escaping capitalist control. Benjamin helped define the flâneur as an observant solitary man perusing the city of Paris. Sometimes also referred to as a “dandy.” According to Merlin Coverley, the flâneur “is more playful for a start, it is also purely aesthetic, there is nothing revolutionary in its design, it doesn’t take itself too seriously in the sense of a political agenda.” [credit]

The Surrealist version of the flâneur was to devise experiments involving randomness and chance in order to experience the city without being blinded by mundanity. (credit) For example, follow interesting strangers across the city, or visit a city while guiding oneself using the map of another city, or draw a circle on a map and try to walk as accurately as possible along the circumference.

Similar in some ways to Guy Debord’s dérive later on, both flânerie and the dérive describe a figure seeking new experience and insight by defying the commercial logic of the modern city. (credit: The Art of Walking: A Field Guide, 2012). However the flâneur privileges the street over the studio, and treats walking as an aid to achieving the avant-garde dream of merging art and everyday life. (credit: The Art of Walking: A Field Guide, 2012) Debord explicitly takes position against letting chance take a too important role in a dérive, because ‘the action of chance is naturally conservative and in a new setting tends to reduce everything to habit or to an alternation between a limited number of variants. Progress means breaking through fields where chance holds sway by creating new conditions more favourable to our purposes.’ (credit)

Exercises:

Flaneur exercise

Resources:

Blog post comparing flânerie to dérive