Leigh Anna Cohen

Notes from the first class in addition to personal responses to the class thus far

To walk without a purpose is different than walking as an act to survive or to walk for the aesthetic value.

The flaneur as a spectator, a person who is interested in walking a sense of being a detached observer who can find not themselves through the walk but a better understanding of society and their own surroundings.

Something that strongly relates but was not mentioned in the opening of this course is the act of the dérive. In Psychogeography (how people relate to their surroundings and creating their own geography) the dérive became an important role in the life of the flaneur because the act is an unplanned exploration through a space or landscape, usually urban, which the surrounding architecture and surroundings subconsciously direct the traveller. The  goal then becoming a new way of encountering an entirely new and authentic experience and perhaps changing ones perception of a space altogether. The word dérive literally translates to the word drift. Which in a sense the goal of their actions.

Guy Debord who was a leading theorist in the situationist era led the thought of the dérive and loosely defined it as “a mode of experimental behavior linked to the conditions of urban society: a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances.” –Theory of the dérive and other situationist Writings on the city  1956 Guy Debord

The dérive grants a rare instance of pure chance. Pure chance leading an opportunity for an unconditional new and authentic experience of the different atmospheres and feelings generated by the urban landscape.

Again synthesized from Theory of the dérive by Guy Debord

If one does not know the destination, they are prone to being more observant or hypersensitive to their surroundings because one is constantly looking for a place to be. To be in the open can never be enough, unless one is to say that the place in the open that they find themselves is the destination. Ine the end it all comes back to knowing where you are and the comfort that gives a person. 

Walking without purpose so your mind is open and not focused on where one is going, to me that is truly the only way to know where you are, to be lost. Once you are lost you can find yourself and your thoughts and experience can be your destination.

“What strange phenomena we find in a great city, all we need do is stroll about with our eyes open. Life swarms with innocent monsters.”
―Charles Baudelaire

To leave the past behind you are nothing but who you are now, in the present, and the surroundings you find yourself with. It may be a forced interaction but it is a necessary one.

Responses to the guided tour [with sound elements recorded as a preview of my experience]

Don’t Rush

Two words that stuck with me on the tour because we were aimlessly walking, however because there was a guide and many destinations I was ambivalent to my surroundings just waiting to be stopped and told about the next thing that I was expected to see and respond to.

Some questions or thoughts I had while on this walk:

  • Is it more important to be shown something and admire it or to discover it and have the inherent urge to question it. Basically will it resinate longer if it is of my own volition? 
  • When people are walking with a destination (this is more of a personal comment because this is how I personally approach walking) they tend to walk with their heads down because the only importance is where they will be at the end of their walk. So is it more important, when trying to intervene a viewer or walker, to place ones art or response to spacial surroundings on the ground where one might be looking or to stop them (or intervene) in a more aggressive matter by literally changing the space in which they are in.
  • “The most important things to understand” this being said on the tour made me question who is to decide what is the most important things to notice and wouldn’t that differ from individual to individual being as we are all attempting to understand ourselves and something different altogether?
  • Another thing said that I don’t necessarily have a response to was “you have to break something to create. We always have to be ready to break something.” Like I said I will wait to respond to this until I have something concrete to add. 

Unfortunately I cannot upload the sound clips taken from the walk, bt right now I’m simply attempting to discover the sounds of the city of Siena.

Final Project

My final project isn’t so final…because I have worked with mapping and the walking arts a good number of times before I am struggling where to go with my current project. Thus far I have super-imposed a map of the city of Prague, Czech Republic in the same scale over the city of Siena, Italy. I took screen shots of the center point of each city, places I know I have been but don’t have a strong connection too. And then a route was created through the streets of Prague to examine and walk through the streets of Siena. This is an opportunity to get lost and disorient myself wit ha starting point that was of random choice and a point that abruptly ends.

The idea is to look closely at what makes these two cities similar and what makes them different (other than the obviously non congruent streets.) I chose this time to, after experience these new spaces to reflect back on where I would be and/or how I would feel had I been on the same route in Prague in relation to Siena.

I chose Prague in particular because as my host mom said, by now it is my second European home. I have spent quite a bit of quality time there and have memories that stuck with me, not just through my sense of sight giving this space a more three dimensional approach for me.

As I said though, I was looking to take myself out of the city streets as well, so I found something else that was both similar and different at the same time and for me that was the skyline and the architecture of the two cities. They are both so different but yet have so much history and reason for why they are the way they are.

So far my project is very aesthetically based because I’ve examined mapping through memory through other spaces through personal experience through different forms  of documentation and at the moment, in a way being in the city streets is the experience  but i’m attempting to find a new way of experience beyond the city streets. Just the thought of and behind the city or cities themselves.

More to come…

After installing my project

At first I didn’t know how all of the individual projects would work together, being as their was a severe lack of communication between the students and the projects.

So placing them all in one space expecting them to make sense and be completely understood was not truly a reasonable expectation in my mind. However, when we all arrived with our projects in hand at the exhibition space ready and determined to make the space work as an experience within itself, I was pleasantly surprised with the ephemeral experience we were able to provide as producers of our individual experiences.

With my personal project I did struggle because I felt that when working on process it was becoming to much about the aesthetics and not enough about the experience, however because I worked with that idea and just decided to come up with one final piece that included all of the steps I made to get to my final piece which explored two spaces through architecture.  To further this project, which I hope to do moving forward, I plan to use other cities that I consider myself personally or emotionally close with and do the same experiment, maybe even superimposing cities within the States with cities here in Europe.

Overall I am happy with where my project went and the experience I was hopefully able to give people. I also agree and am happy with how honest our exhibition felt because all of our projects studying this foreign experience are so genuine because of the new ideas that arose for a lot of students in the class.


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