This is the text Alan distributed yesterday, which he produced with thanks to Wrights & Sights www.mis-guide.com who do some lovely stuff - the misguide to exeter is something to treasure. Anyhow, cheers to them and to Alan
In a climate of concern some of the LRM’s activities could be interpreted as activities one might expect of a spy, an undercover agent or a conspirator. Since 9/11, 7/7 and other worldwide incidents, notices have appeared in the media and public spaces cautioning people to be wary of unusual behaviour. Indeed some of this advice could be adopted as pure psychogeography in that there is encouragement to view the ordinary as potentially extraordinary.
The kaleidoscopic unsettling of the sense comes rapidly once we move from the passive gaze of the tourist to the intrusive, naughty, performative and inquisitive behaviour of the psychogeographer. To break the pattern of moving in a functional manner through the urban environment is to suddenly feel vulnerable to and free from the laws, lores and regulations of place. This sense can be uncomfortably heightened when one considers the obsessions and prohibitions built around the idea of property, race, sovereignty and security.
Some of the derives the LRM carry out may lead the walker to edges and edgelands that are assumed to be invisible, un-navigable, and beyond the expected daily itinerary of both local and tourist. Every city has its secrets and hush zones, ambient hubs, invisible boundaries, strategically sensitive installations and buildings that we may chance upon by running counter to the expected behaviour of the crowd. On the one hand, heightened perceptions may be to our benefit in an awareness of potential dangers and enjoyments, but on the other hand, we may, by degrees, become fearless and more able to take an unexpected detour down an alleyway or through a dark doorway. And in so doing, our activities, if observed by police, security guard or concerned member of the public may be misconstrued. Something as simple as entering a shop with no intention to buy could rouse suspicion, could lead to a supposition that the drifter is a thief.
The very activities we are promoting as ways of re-seeing the world could be, for all we know, the kinds of methodologies being suggested by more covert, formal or informal militaristic groups. The right to roam where you wish will be different in different contexts of time, place and recent history. It leads us to consider ways in which we may become more aware of these concerns and thus more critically engaged in issues of society, security, human rights and freedom, as if, in some utopian manner, the LRM’s activities may lead to artistic activism that may in some ways influence the story of the city and even the planet.
With fear and terror on the wind and in the streets, we may need to face that alleyway and dark doorway in a different manner. As Bertolt Becht said, “Change the World, it needs it.”