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GUY DEBORD

theory of the dérive

1958
G U Y

DEST I NAT I ON FI ELD GUI DE
BUREAU OF UNKNOWN DESTINATIONS

PSY CH OGEOGR APH IC

D E B O R D

Edited and Designed by Jessica Buie

GEOGRAPHY

CRITIQUE

OF URBAN

3

The editor and designer would like to thank the following for contributing to the production of this collection of essays: Kim Garza Mia Carameros Whitney McCaskill Lex i e S h o o k Elizabeth Kelso Marco Marroquin Lillian Pesoli Issa Galvan Emily LaCroix A l i D i a z -Te l l o Anthony Zubia

contents
making sense of psychogeography
simon sadler

9-22

CRITIQUE OF URBAN GEOGRAPHY
GUY DEBORD

29-44 4 5 - 67

T h e o r y o f t h e D é r i v e
guy debord

d e s t i n a t i o n f i e l d g u i d e

bureau of unknown de stination s

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SIMON SADLER

Rebels and bohemians traverse cities, scattering signs, staging enigmas, leaving coded messages, usurping the territorial claims of priests and kings by transforming the social perception of specific urban sites. On these trips, anything and nothing at all may happen.

STEWART HOME

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The eighteenth­century picturesque and sublime had paid homage to nature, depicting it as a force p o i s e d t o s u b s u m e o r o v e r w h e l m h u m a n i t y, a t o d d s with the pastoral vision of people at ease in an i d e a l l a n d s c a p e . B y a n a l o g y, t h e s i t u a t i o n i s t c i t y was at odds with the Corbusian vision of people at ease in an ideal urban landscape, a place where t h e s t r u g g l e w i t h n a t u r e , w i t h t h e b o d y, w i t h s p a c e , and with class had inexplicably come to an end. Le Corbusier ’s Ville Contemporaine (Contemporary city) was forever contemporary only by freezing t i m e a n d e n d i n g h i s t o r y ( f i g . 2 .1 3 ) . In psychogeography all the struggles were acute again, making a nonsense of the Corbusian fantasy of the city as something abstract, rational, or ideal. Debord reported that “the primarily urban character of the drift, in its element in the great industrially transformed cities—those centers of possibilities and meanings—could be expressed in Marx’s phrase: ‘Men can see nothing around them that is not their own image; everything speaks to them of t h e m s e l ve s . Th e i r ve r y l a n d s c a p e i s a l i ve.’

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As its name implied, psychogeography attempted to c o m b i n e s u b j e c t i v e a n d o b j e c t i v e m o d e s o f s t u d y. On the one hand it recognized that the self cannot be divorced from the urban environment; on the other hand, it had to pertain to more than just the psyche of the individual if it was to be useful in the c o l l e c t i v e r e t h i n k i n g o f t h e c i t y. T h e r e a d e r s e n s e s Debord’s desperation to negotiate this paradox in his “Théorie de la dérive” (Theory of the dérive), a key document first published in the Belgian surrealist journal Les lèvres nues in 1956 and republished in Internationale situationniste in 1958. The drift, Debord explained, entailed the sort of “playful­constructive behavior ” that had always distinguished situationist activities from mere pastimes. The drift should not be confused, then, with “classical notions of the journey and the stroll”; drifters weren’t like tadpoles in a tank, “stripped ... of intelligence, sociability and s e x u a l i t y, ” b u t w e r e p e o p l e a l e r t t o “ t h e attractions of the terrain and the encounters they f i n d t h e re,” c a p a b l e a s a g ro u p o f a g re e i n g upon distinct, spontaneous preferences for r o u t e s t h r o u g h t h e c i t y.

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One of Debord’s priorities in hedging the role of spontaneity and chance in the drift was to create distinctions with its better­ known surrealist p r e c e d e n t s . “A n i n s u f f i c i e n t a w a r e n e s s o f t h e limitations of chance, and of its inevitably reactionary use, condemned to dismal failure the celebrated aimless ambulation attempted in 1923 by four surrealists, beginning from a town chosen by l o t ,” h e n o te d . 24 D e b o rd h a d s o m e to l e ra n ce for surrealist methods (he was amused by a friend who “had just wandered through the Harz region of Germany while blindly following the directions of a map of London”), but while situationists made it t h e i r b u s i n e s s t o d i s r u p t t h e b o u r g e o i s w o r l d v i e w, they had no wish to problematize all instrumental knowledge and action. Surrealist automatism was, they felt, creatively and politically exhausted,

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“a g e n re o f o ste n t at i o u s . . . ‘ we i rd n e ss .’ ” D e b o rd was resigned to the fact that “in its infancy” drift would be partly dependent upon chance and would h ave to a cco m m o d ate a d e g re e o f “ l e t t i n g g o.” 2 6 The psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan had claimed that surrealist play oscillated between intention and automatism, and much the same could have been said about psychogeographic drift. Debord and Wo l m a n t h e m s e l v e s d e c i d e d t h a t t h e d r i f t w a s a combination of chance and planning that reached various stages of equilibrium.

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In his concern that “letting go” might collapse back into surrealist automatism, Debord overlooked the fact that drifters could not completely “let go’’ even if they wanted to. Psychogeography was formed and validated by a situationist group discourse and culture that couldn’t be just blanked out at will. In fact Debord presented the situationist maps of Paris and the “theory of the d é r i v e ” p r e c i s e l y i n o r d e r t o r a t i f y g r o u p a c t i v i t y, codifying all sorts of overblown psychogeographic techniques. The result—an organized spontaneity—was s o m e t h i n g o f a n o d d i t y, a n d i t c e r t a i n l y d i d n ’ t c o l l a t e m u c h r e a l d a t a . “A b a r, f o r e x a m p l e , w h i c h i s c a l l e d A t t h e E n d o f t h e Wo r l d a t t h e l i m i t o f o n e of the strongest unities of ambiance in Paris, is not t h e re by c h a n ce,” Po t l atc h p l e a d e d . “ Eve n t s o n l y belong to chance if one does not know the general l a w s o f t h e i r c a t e g o r y. ” 3 0 W i t h i t s d e t e c t i v e ­ s t y l e i c o n o g r a p h y, R a l p h R u m n e y ’ s s i t u a t i o n i s t p h o t o g r a p h i c r e c o r d o f Ve n i c e ’ s s t r e e t s , m a d e a s h e stalked American Beat author Alan Ansen, looked suitably systematic.

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B u t i t fa i l e d to y i e l d a ny t h i n g re m o te l y l i ke “d at a ,” its author struggling to explain the significance of his encounters with children and with old a c q u a i n t a n c e s , a c c o u n t f o r t h e r o m a n c e o f Ve n i c e , a n d i d e n t i f y “ s i n i s t e r, ” “ d e p r e s s i n g , ” a n d “ b e a u t i f u l ” zones. Rumney clearly lacked seriousness, leaving us uncertain whether his project was a failure or a w h o l e s o m e p u r s u i t o f s i t u a t i o n i s t p l a y. A t o n e point he attributed Ansen’s eccentric behavior in the photographs to the fact that he was “aware of t h e p h o to g ra p h e r a n d i s s h ow i n g o f f,” a n d t h e re was a note of capitulation to the impalpability of “psychogeographic ” data as Rumney admitted that his report might have benefited from being conducted by “one more competent than the a u t h o r. ” 3 1 A n n o u n c i n g h i s e x p u l s i o n s h o r t l y a f t e r, the Situationist International regretfully noted that Ve n i c e h a d ‘ ’ c l o s e d i n o n t h e y o u n g m a n . ”

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In fairness, psychogeographers recognized that theirs was a necessarily inexact science, dealing with imprecise data. Potlatch, discussing recent t e n d e n c i e s i n p o e t r y, n o t e d t h e f a i l u r e o f f i x e d literary form and then implied a link to the failure o f f i x e d p o l i t i c a l a n d u r b a n f o r m s . 3 3 To s e e k f i x e d f o r m w a s f o l l y, t h e j o u r n a l n o t e d , s i n c e i t d e n i e d the serendipitous processes that create literature politics, and cities alike. And in any case, even if permanently fixed form could be discovered and isolated, it would be a n i m p e d i m e n t t o t h e d y n a m i c s o f c r e a t i v i t y. S o in their Mémoires, Debord and Jorn cheerfully r e s i g n e d t h e m s e l v e s t o u r b a n r e l a t i v i t y, n o t i n g that “these ambiguities do not owe anything to psychology—cities are born from interferences of situations—the influences follow each other s u r p a ss i n g e a c h o t h e r w h i l e m e s h i n g .” 3 4 “The sectors of a city are, at a certain level, d e c i p h e ra b l e,” D e b o rd a d m i t te d i n h i s 1 9 61 f i l m Critique de la séparation (Critique of separation), as the viewer was shown aerial views of Paris. “But the personal meaning they have for us is incommunicable, like all that clandestinity of

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private life regarding which we possess nothing b u t p i t i f u l d o c u m e n t s .’ ’ Th e s i t u at i o n i st s wa n te d to keep a grip on reality nonetheless. The commentary of Debord’s film Sur le passage de quelques personnes à travers une assez courte unité de temps dreamily recollected the experience of the drift: “It was a trompe­ l ’o e i l re a l i t y by m e a n s o f which one had to discover the potential richness o f r e a l i t y, ” a s i f t h e s p e c i a l , u n r e a l c o n d i t i o n s o f the drift might occlude a more profound insight into the city; a page of Mémoires complained about “ fa l s e sto n ewo r k— t ro m p e l ’o e i l — n eve r e n o u g h — n eve r s at i s f y i n g .” The Debordist element reacted quickly against those situationists for whom the mysteries of the drift were going beyond cool reasoning and heading down the same magic road as postwar Bretonist surrealism. In 1956 Potlatch attacked a “faction, comprising sometimes the most advanced in the s e a r c h f o r a n e w b e h a v i o r, ” w h i c h f o u n d i t s e l f “drawn to the taste of the unknown, mystery at all cost ” and “ to diverse occultist conclusions which b o r d e r o n t h e o s o p h y. ” T h e a r t i c l e ’ s t o n e b e c a m e menacing: “The analysis and the representation of this last tendency eventually brought us to put an end to the relative political freedom which we had u p t i l l n ow m u t u a l l y a cco rd e d o u r s e l ve s .”

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As in the stoic tradition of the male artist presented with the female nude, a degree of resistance to the charms of psychogeography was applauded. From the outset psychogeography w a s r e g a r d e d a s a s o r t o f t h e r a p y, a f e t i s h i z a t i o n of those parts of the city that could still rescue drifters from the clutches of functionalism, e x c i t i n g t h e s e n s e s a n d t h e b o d y. “ We w i l l p l a y u p o n to p o p h o b i a a n d c re ate a to p o p h i l i a ,” t h e Situationist International profligately promised,3 8 and the overwhelmingly male­dominated group’s penchant for girlie illustrations gave its architectural commentary an especially odd cast. A page of Debord and Jorn’s Mémoires drew upon the old metaphor of the landscape as a female body ( f i g . 2 .1 5 ) .

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The chunks of female bodies, disarmingly chopped up, were “moving accidents”—”accidents” like the rolls and dips of the landscape, perhaps, or “moving” in the emotional sense, or in the way that they were encountered on the move, on the drift. The experience of delving bodily into the urban landscape was like being “half­ buried between the m o u n d s o f E a ste r I s l a n d .” 39 A n o t h e r o f D e b o rd ’s metaphors, in distinctly poor taste, suggested that the drifter could rape the night streets of L o n d o n ’ s E a s t E n d — ”J a c k t h e R i p p e r i s p r o b a b l y p syc h o g e o g ra p h i c i n l ove.” 4 0 Th e l i n ka g e o f sexual prowess to the city and to revolution was completed by a famous piece of situationist­ inspired M ay ‘ 6 8 g ra f f i t i : “ I c a m e i n t h e co b b l e sto n e s .”

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So psychogeography offered a sense of violent emotive possession over the streets. Exotic and exciting treasures were to be found in the city by t h o s e d r i f t e r s a b l e t o c o n q u e r h e r, a b l e t o o v e r c o m e the exhaustion and euphoria of the drift. “In 1953– 1 95 4 ,” C h tc h e g l ov b o a ste d , “ we d r i f te d fo r t h re e o r four months; that ’s the extreme limit, the critical p o i n t . I t ’s a m i ra c l e i t d i d n ’ t k i l l u s .” I n t h i s w i l l to possess the city there was something more than mere fetishization. Like the imperialist powers that they officially opposed, it was as if situationists felt that the exploration of alien quarters (of the city rather than the globe) would advance civilization. More poignantly for the handful of female or non European psychogeographers, the drift could ­ momentarily defy the white patriarchy of urban spacet ­ ime, the likes of Michèle Bernstein and Abdelhafid Khatib “reclaiming the night”: Khatib was twice arrested for breaking the police curfew imposed on Algerian residents.43 Reports on psychogeography were presented as if they were produced by a military rather than an artistic avant­ garde. As well as having a nautical derivation,

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Debord borrowed the idea of drift from military tacticians, who defined it as ‘’a calculated action d e te r m i n e d by t h e a b s e n ce o f a p ro p e r l o c u s .” 4 5 Fo r C l a u s ew i t z i t h a d b e e n a n “a r t o f t h e we a k ,” for von Bülow a maneuver “within the enemy’s f i e l d o f v i s i o n . ” 4 6 T h e p o w e r o f p s y c h o g e o g r a p h y, it seemed, lay precisely in its intoxicating combination of subjective and objective—fetishistic and militaristic—approaches to urban exploration. Psychogeography was merely a preparation, a reconnaissance for the day when the city would be seized for real. The drift, Debord explained, “ takes on a double meaning: active observation of present­ day urban agglomerations and development of h y p o t h e s e s o n t h e s t r u c t u r e o f a s i t u a t i o n i s t c i t y. ”

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CRITIQUE
OF URBAN

GUY DEBORD
GEOGRAPHY

“A n i n t o x i c a t i o n c o m e s o v e r t h e m a n w h o w a l k s l o n g a n d aimlessly through the streets. With each step, the walk takes on greater momentum; ever weaker grow the temptations of shops, of bistros, of smiling women, ever more irresistible the m a g n e t i s m o f t h e n e x t s t r e e t c o r n e r, o f a d i s t a n t m a s s o f f o l i a g e , o f a s t r e e t n a m e . T h e n c o m e s h u n g e r. O u r m a n w a n t s n o t h i n g to do with the myriad possibilities offered to sate his appetite. Like an ascetic animal, he flits through unknown districts - until, utterly exhausted, he stumbles into his room, which receives him c o l d l y a n d w e a r s a s t r a n g e a i r.

WALTER BENJAMIN:

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Of all the affairs we participate in, with or without interest, the groping quest for a new way of life is the only thing that remains really exciting. Aesthetic and other disciplines have proved glaringly inadequate in this regard and merit the g r e a t e s t i n d i f f e r e n c e . We s h o u l d t h e r e f o r e d e l i n e a t e some provisional terrains of observation, including the observation of certain processes of chance and predictability in the streets. T h e w o r d p s y c h o g e o g r a p h y, s u g g e s t e d b y an illiterate Kabyle as a general term for the phenomena a few of us were investigating around the summer of 1953, is not too inappropriate. It is not inconsistent with the materialist perspective that sees life and thought as conditioned by o b j e c t i v e n a t u r e . G e o g r a p h y, f o r e x a m p l e , d e a l s with the determinant action of general natural forces, such as soil composition or climatic conditions, on the economic structures of a s o c i e t y, a n d t h u s o n t h e c o r r e s p o n d i n g c o n c e p t i o n that such a society can have of the world. Psychogeography sets for itself the study of the precise laws and the effects of the geographical environment, whether consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.

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The charmingly vague adjective psychogeographical can be applied to the findings arrived at by this type of investigation, to their influence on human feelings, and more generally to any situation or conduct that seems to reflect the same spirit of d i s c o v e r y. It has long been said that the desert is monotheistic. Is it illogical or devoid of interest to observe that the district in Paris between P l a c e d e l a C o n t r e s c a r p e a n d R u e d e l ’A r b a l è t e conduces rather to atheism, to oblivion and to the disorientation of habitual reflexes? Historical co n d i t i o n s d e te r m i n e w h at i s co n s i d e re d “ u s e f u l .” Baron Haussmann’s urban renewal of Paris under the second Empire, for example, was motivated

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by the desire to open up broad thoroughfares enabling the rapid circulation of troops and the use of artillery against insurrections. But from any standpoint other than that of facilitating police control, Haussmann’s Paris is a city built by an i d i o t , f u l l o f s o u n d a n d f u r y, s i g n i f y i n g n o t h i n g . Present-day urbanism’s main problem is ensuring the smooth circulation of a rapidly increasing number of motor vehicles. A future urbanism may well apply itself to no less utilitarian projects, but in the rather different context of psychogeographical possibilities. The present abundance of private automobiles is one of the most astonishing successes of the constant propaganda by which capitalist production persuades the masses that car ownership is one of the privileges our society reserves for its most privileged members. But anarchical progress often e n d s u p co n t ra d i c t i n g i t s e l f, a s w h e n we s avo r the spectacle of a police chief issuing a filmed appeal urging Parisian car owners to use public transportation.

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We k n o w w i t h w h a t b l i n d f u r y s o m a n y u n p r i v i l e g e d people are ready to defend their mediocre advantages. Such pathetic illusions of privilege are linked to a general idea of happiness prevalent among the bourgeoisie and maintained by a system of publicity that includes Malraux’s aesthetics as well as Coca-Cola ads means. The first of these means is undoubtedly the systematic provocative dissemination of a host of proposals tending to turn the whole of life into an exciting game, combined with the constant depreciation of all current diversions (to the extent, of course, that these latter cannot be [diverted] to serve in constructions of more interesting ambiances). The greatest difficulty in such an undertaking is to convey through these apparently extravagant proposals a sufficient degree of serious seduction. – an idea of happiness whose crisis must be provoked on every occasion by every

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To a c c o m p l i s h t h i s w e c a n e n v i s a g e a n a d r o i t u s e of currently popular means of communication. But a disruptive sort of abstention, or demonstrations designed to radically frustrate the fans of these means of communication, can also promote at little expense an atmosphere of uneasiness extremely favorable for the introduction of a few new conceptions of pleasure. The idea that the creation of a chosen emotional situation depends only on the thorough understanding and calculated application of a certain number of concrete techniques inspired this somewhat tongue-in-cheek “ P s y c h o g e o g r a p h i c a l G a m e o f t h e We e k , ” p u b l i s h e d i n Potlatch #1: In accordance with what you are seeking, choose a

c o u n t r y, a l a r g e o r s m a l l c i t y, a b u s y o r q u i e t s t r e e t . B u i l d a house. Furnish it. Use decorations and surroundings to the best advantage. Choose the season and the time o f d a y. B r i n g t o g e t h e r t h e m o s t s u i t a b l e p e o p l e , w i t h appropriate records and drinks. The lighting and the conversation should obviously be suited to the occasion, as should be the weather or your memories. If there has been no error in your calculations, the result should prove satisfying.

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We n e e d t o f l o o d t h e m a r k e t – e v e n i f f o r t h e moment merely the intellectual market – with a mass of desires whose fulfillment is not beyond the capacity of humanity’s present means of action on the material world, but only beyond the capacity of the old social organization. It is thus not without political interest to publicly counterpoise such desires to the elementary desires that are endlessly rehashed by the film industry and in psychological novels like those of that old hack Mauriac. (As Marx explained to poor Proudhon, “In a society based on p o v e r t y, t h e poorest products are inevitably c o n s u m e d b y t h e g r e a t e s t n u m b e r. ” ) The revolutionary transformation of the world, of all aspects of the world, will confirm all the dreams of abundance. The sudden change of ambiance in a street within the space of a few meters; the evident division of a city into zones of distinct psychic atmospheres; the path of least resistance that is automatically followed in aimless strolls (and which has no relation to the physical contour of the terrain); the appealing or repelling character of certain places neglected. – these phenomena all seem to be

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In any case they are never envisaged as depending on causes that can be uncovered by careful analysis and turned to account. People are quite aware that some neighborhoods are gloomy and others pleasant. But they generally simply assume that elegant streets cause a feeling of satisfaction and that poor streets are depressing, and let it go at that. In fact, the variety of possible combinations of ambiences, analogous to the blending of pure chemicals in an infinite number of mixtures, gives rise to feelings as differentiated and complex as any other form of spectacle can evoke. The slightest demystified investigation reveals that the qualitatively or quantitatively different influences of diverse urban decors cannot be determined solely on the basis of the historical period or architectural style, much less on the basis of housing conditions.

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The research that we are thus led to undertake on the arrangement of the elements of the urban setting, in close relation with the sensations they provoke, entails bold hypotheses that must be constantly corrected in the light of experience, by critique and self-critique. Certain of De Chirico’s paintings, which were clearly inspired by architecturally originated sensations, exert in turn an effect on their objective base to the point of transforming it: they tend themselves to become blueprints or models. Disquieting neighborhoods of arcades could one day carry on and fulfill the allure of these works.

I scarcely know of anything but those two harbors at dusk painted by Claude Lorrain– which are in the Louvre and which juxtapose extremely dissimilar urban ambiances – that can rival in beauty the Paris Metro maps. I am not, of course, talking about mere physical beauty – the new beauty can only be a beauty of situation – but simply about the particularly moving presentation, in both cases, of a sum of tpossibilities.

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Along with various more difficult means of intervention, a renovated cartography seems appropriate for immediate utilization. The production of psychogeographical maps, or even the introduction of alterations such as more or less arbitrarily transposing maps of two different regions, can contribute to clarifying certain wanderings that express not subordination to randomness but total insubordination to habitual influences (influences generally categorized as tourism, that popular drug as repugnant as sports or buying on credit). A friend recently told me that he had just wandered through the Harz region of Germany while blindly following the directions of a map of London. This sort of game is obviously only a feeble beginning in comparison to the complete creation of architecture and urbanism that will someday be within the power of everyone.

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Meanwhile we can distinguish several stages of partial, less difficult projects, beginning with the mere displacement of elements of decoration from the locations where we are used to seeing them. For example, in the preceding issue of this journal [Les Lèvres Nues] Marcel Mariën proposed that when global resources have ceased to be squandered on the irrational enterprises that are imposed on us t o d a y, a l l t h e e q u e s t r i a n s t a t u e s o f a l l t h e c i t i e s of the world be assembled in a single desert. This would offer to the passersby –the future belongs to them – the spectacle of an artificial cavalry charge which could even be dedicated to the memory of t h e g r e a t e s t m a s s a c r e s o f h i s t o r y, f r o m Ta m e r l a n e t o R i d g w a y. I t w o u l d a l s o r e s p o n d t o o n e o f t h e main demands of the present generation: educative value.

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In fact, nothing really new can be expected until the masses in action awaken to the conditions that are imposed on them in all domains of life, and to the practical means of changing them. “The i m a g i n a r y i s t h at w h i c h te n d s to b e co m e re a l ,” wrote an author whose name, on account of his notorious intellectual degradation, I have since f o r g o t t e n .T h e i n v o l u n t a r y r e s t r i c t i v e n e s s o f s u c h a statement could serve as a touchstone exposing various farcical literary revolutions: that which tends to remain unreal is empty babble. Life, for which we are responsible, presents powerful motives for discouragement and innumerable more or less vulgar diversions and compensations. A year doesn’t go by when people we loved haven’t succumbed, for lack of having clearly grasped the present possibilities, to some glaring capitulation. But the enemy tcamp objectively condemns people to imbecility and already numbers millions of imbeciles; the addition of a few more makes no difference.

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The primary moral deficiency remains indulgence, in all its forms.

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theory

of the
dérive
G U Y

1958

D E B O R D

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GU Y D E B O RD - TH EO RY O F TH E DÉRIVE

In his study Paris et l’agglomération parisienne (Bibliothèque de Sociologie Contemporaine, P. U . F. , 1 9 5 2 ) C h o m b a r t d e L a u w e n o t e s t h a t “ a n urban neighborhood is determined not only by geographical and economic factors, but also the image that its inhabitants and those of other by geographical and economic factors, but also by the image that its inhabitants and those of other n e i g h b o r h o o d s h ave o f i t .”

“Men can see nothing around them that is not their own image; everything speaks to them of t h e m s e lv e s . T h e i r v e r y l a n d s c a p e i s a l i v e . ”

by geographical and economic factors, but also by the image that its inhabitants and those of other n e i g h b o r h o o d s n e i g h b o r h o o d s h ave o f i t .” I n t h e same work, in order to illustrate “the narrowness of the real Paris in which each individual lives . . . within a geographical area whose radius is ex t re m e l y s m a l l ,” h e d i a g ra m s a l l t h e m ove m e n t s made in the space of one year by a student living in the 16th Arrondissement. Such data — examples of a modern poetry capable of provoking sharp emotional reactions (in this particular case, outrage at the fact that anyone’s life can be so pathetically limited) — or even Burgess’s theory of Chicago’s social activities as being distri buted in distinct concentric zones, will undoubtedly prove useful in developing dérives. If chance plays an important role in dérives this is because the methodology of psychogeographical observation i s s t i l l i n i t s i n f a n c y. B u t t h e a c t i o n o f c h a n c e i s naturally conservative and in a new setting tends to reduce everything to habit or to an alternation between a limited number of variants.

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Progress means break ing through fields where chance holds sway by creating new conditions m o r e f a v o r a b l e t o o u r p u r p o s e s . We c a n s a y, t h e n , that the randomness of a dérive is fundamentally different from that of the stroll, but also that the first psychogeographical attractions

discovered by dérivers may tend to fixate them around new habitual axes, to which they will constantly be drawn back. An insufficient awareness of the limitations of chance, and of its inevitably reactionary effects, condemned to a dismal failure the famous aimless wandering attempted in 1923 by four surrealists beginning from a town chosen b y l o t . Wa n d e r i n g i n o p e n c o u n t r y i s n a t u r a l l y depressing, and the interventions of chance are poorer there than anywhere else. But this mindlessness is pushed much further by a certain P i e r r e Ve n d r y e s ( i n M é d i u m , M a y 1 9 5 4 ) , w h o t h i n k s he can relate this anecdote to various probability experiments, on the ground that they all supposedly

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involve the same sort of antideterminist liberation. One can dérive alone, but all indications are that the most fruitful numerical arrangement consists of several small groups of two or three people who have reached the same level of awareness, since cross-checking these different groups’ impressions makes it possible to arrive at more objective con­ clusions.

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It is preferable for the composition of these groups t o c h a n g e f r o m o n e d é r i v e t o a n o t h e r. W i t h m o r e than four or five participants, the specifically dérive character rapidly diminishes, and in any case it is impossible for there to be more than ten or twelve people without the dérive fragmenting into several simultaneous dérives. The practice of such subdivision is in fact of great interest, but the difficulties it entails have so far prevented it from being organized on a sufficient scale. The average duration of a dérive is one d a y, c o n s i d e r e d a s t h e t i m e b e t w e e n t w o p e r i o d s of sleep. The starting and ending times have no n e c e s s a r y r e l a t i o n t o t h e s o l a r d a y, b u t i t s h o u l d b e noted that the last hours of the night are generally unsuitable for dérives.

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But this duration is merely a statistical average. For one thing, a dérive rarely occurs in its pure form: it is difficult for the participants to avoid setting aside an hour or two at the beginning or end of the day for taking care of banal tasks; and toward the end of the day fatigue tends to encourage such an a b a n d o n m e n t . B u t m o r e i m p o r t a n t l y, a d é r i v e o f t e n takes place within a deliberately limited period of a few hours, or even fortuitously during fairly brief moments; or it may last for several days without interruption. In spite of the cessations imposed by the need for sleep, certain dérives of a sufficient intensity have been sustained for three or four d a y s , o r e v e n l o n g e r. I t i s t r u e t h a t i n t h e c a s e o f a series of dérives over a rather long period of time it is almost impossible to determine precisely when the state of mind peculiar to one dérive gives way t o t h a t o f a n o t h e r. O n e s e q u e n c e o f d é r i v e s w a s pursued without notable interruption for around two months.

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Such an experience gives rise to new objective conditions of behavior that bring about the disappearance of a good number of the old ones. The influence of weather on dérives, although real, is a significant factor only in the case of prolonged rains, which make them virtually impossible.

The spatial field of a dérive may be precisely delim­ ited or vague, depending on whether the goal is to s t u d y a te r ra i n o r to e m o t i o n a l l y d i s o r i e n t o n e s e l f. It should not be forgotten that these two aspects of dérives overlap in so many ways that it is impos­ sible to isolate one of them in a pure state.

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But the use of taxis, for example, can provide a clear enough dividing line: If in the course of a dérive one takes a taxi, either to get to a specific d e s t i n a t i o n o r s i m p l y t o m o v e , s a y, t w e n t y m i n u t e s to the west, one is concerned primarily with a per­ s o n a l t r i p o u t s i d e o n e ’s u s u a l s u r ro u n d i n g s . I f, o n the other hand, one sticks to the direct exploration of a particular terrain, one is concentrating primari­ ly on research for a psychogeographical urbanism.

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In every case the spatial field depends first of all on the point of departure — the residence of the solo dériver or the meeting place selected by a group. The maximum area of this spatial field does not extend beyond the entirety of a large city and its suburbs. At its minimum it can be limited to a small self-contained ambiance: a single neighbor­ hood or even a single block of houses if it ’s in­ teresting enough (the extreme case being a stat­ ic-dérive of an entire day within the Saint-Lazare train station).

The exploration of a fixed spatial field entails establishing bases and calculating directions of penetration. It is here that the study of maps comes in — ordinary ones as well as ecological and psychogeographical ones — along with their correction and improvement. It should go without saying that we are not at all interested in any mere exoticism that may arise from the fact that one is exploring a neighborhood for the first time. Besides its unimportance, this aspect of the problem is c o m p l e t e l y s u b j e c t i v e a n d s o o n f a d e s a w a y.

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I n t h e “ p o ss i b l e re n d ez vo u s ,” o n t h e o t h e r h a n d , the element of exploration is minimal in comparison with that of behavioral disorientation. The subject is invited to come alone to a certain place at a specified time. He is freed from the bothersome obligations of the ordinary rendezvous since there i s n o o n e t o w a i t f o r. B u t s i n c e t h i s “ p o s s i b l e rendezvous” has brought him without warning to a p l a c e h e m a y o r m a y n o t k n o w, h e o b s e r v e s t h e surroundings. It may be that the same spot has been specified for a “possible rendezvous” for someone else whose identity he has no way of knowing.

Since he may never even have seen the other person before, he will be encouraged to start up c o n v e r s a t i o n s w i t h v a r i o u s p a s s e r s b y. H e m a y m e e t no one, or he may even by chancet meet the person w h o h a s a r ra n g e d t h e “ p o ss i b l e re n d ez vo u s .” I n a ny case, particularly if the time and place have been well chosen, his use of time will take an unexpected turn. He may even telephone someone else who doesn’t know where the first “possible rendezvous” has taken him, in order to ask for another one to be specified. One can see the virtually unlimited resources of this pastime.

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“Beyond the discovery of unities of ambiance, of their main components and their spatial localization, one come s to perceive their principal axes of passage, their exits and their defenses.”

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Our loose lifestyle and even certain amusements considered dubious that have always been enjoyed among our entourage — slipping by night into houses undergoing demolition, hitchhiking nonstop and without destination through Paris during a transportation strike in the name of adding to the confusion, wandering in subterranean catacombs forbidden to the public, etc. — are expressions of a more general sensibility which is no different from that of the dérive. Written descriptions can be no more than passwords to this great game.

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The lessons drawn from dérives enable us to draw up the first surveys of the psychogeographical a r t i c u l a t i o n s o f a m o d e r n c i t y. B e y o n d t h e discovery of unities of ambiance, of their main components and their spatial localization, one comes to perceive their principal axes of passage, their exits and their defenses. One arrives at the central hypothesis of the existence of psychogeographical pivotal points. One measures the distances that actually separate two regions of a c i t y, d i s t a n c e s t h a t m a y h a v e l i t t l e r e l a t i o n w i t h the physical distance between them. With the aid of old maps, aerial photographs and experimental dérives, one can draw up hitherto lacking maps of influences, maps whose inevitable imprecision at this early stage is no worse than that of the first navigational charts. The only difference is that it is no longer a matter of precisely delineating stable continents, but of changing architecture and urbanism. To d a y t h e d i f f e r e n t u n i t i e s o f a t m o s p h e r e a n d o f d we l l i n g s a re n o t p re c i s e l y m a r ke d o f f, b u t a re surrounded by more or less extended and indistinct bordering regions. The most general change that dérive experience leads to proposing is the constant diminution of these border regions, up to the point of their complete suppression.

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DE S T I N A TIO N F IELD G U ID E
BUREAU OF UNKNOWN DESTINATIONS

PSYCHOGEOGRAPHIC

How to Use This GUIDE

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This Psychogeographic Destination Kit is offered by the Bureau of Unknown Destinations as a provocation to potential voyagers, an invitation to t a k e a d a y, g e t o n a t r a i n , a n d g o s o m e p l a c e y o u know nothing about. The Bureau has given away over a hundred rail trips to the adventurous, and now hopes to expand operations by giving travelers the means to unknow their own destinations. This kit offers a variety of methods of unknowing, s o m e t h o u g h t s a b o u t w h y u n k n o w, a n d a h a n d y foldable mini-notebook to use in recording your experience. For those departing from the Bureau’s b a s e i n N e w Yo r k , t h e r e ’ s a p r e - p r i n t e d s e t o f d e s t i ­ nation cards to play with. For others, a blank set to fill in and work from.

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The method is simple:

1 ) G i v e y o u r s e l f a d ay .

2 ) H e a d f o r a t r a i n s tat i o n , u n k n o w your de stination, set forth.

A n y o n e u s i n g t h i s k i t i s i n v i t e d t o c o p y, s h a r e , a n d a d a p t i t f r e e l y, a n d t o s e n d w h a t y o u f i n d b a c k t o the Bureau to contribute to the ongoing documen­ tation of the project.

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How to Unknow
It’s ideal to start from a central station or one that h a s a s m a n y l i n e s a s p o s s i b l e . Yo u r g o a l i s t o a s ­ sign yourself a destination in a way that keeps it a surprise. Here are a few ways you might go about doing that. adjust, remix, & invent as you desire.

All of these techniques work best when you take t h e r e s u l t s s e r i o u s l y. What if your destination is a p l a ce yo u ’ ve b e e n b e fo re? S o m e t i m e s t h e fa m i l i a r is the most unknown. What if you’re afraid it will be a b o r i n g p l a ce? U n b o re i t . Le t i t u n b o re yo u . Wh at i f yo u ’d rat h e r g o to t h e n ex t sto p o n t h e l i n e, o r t h e l a s t , o r s o m e p l a c e y o u h a v e a y e n f o r ? Yo u c a n go on an ordinary excursion any time—this is your c h a n c e t o u n k n o w.

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YES, IT’S A KIND OF GAME.
So play hard.

1) Shuffle up
If your station offers free printed timetables (as those in new york do), gather them all up, shuffle, a n d p i c k o n e r a n d o m l y. D e c i d e i n a d v a n c e h o w t o choose among the destinations on the timetable (go all the way to the end of the line, or halfway there, or roll a die for the number of stops you’ll go). With some extra preparation time, you can gath­ er the names of all the destinations that take one to three hours of travel time and write them onto i n d e x c a r d s ( o r t h e b l a n k c a r d s i n t h i s k i t ) . Yo u a n d your friends can use these cards for virtually end­ less adventures.

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2 ) T i m i n g t h e T i m e ta b l e s

Choose an exact time you want to arrive at your destination. Search all the available timetables for the destination which most precisely matches y o u r a r r i v a l t i m e . A l t e r n a t e l y, c h o o s e a n e x a c t length of travel, and match your destination to that (this requires a bit more figuring).

3) The Right Hand Doe sn’t Know what the Left Hand is Doing
Unfold a transportation map, or walk up to one i n t h e s t a t i o n . Ave r t yo u r eye s a n d l e t yo u r l e f t hand sweep across the map until it finds a spot. Write down the destination nearest to your left i n d e x f i n g e r. This, of course, is a classic.

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4) The Easy Unknown
If you’re not all that familiar with the city you’re in, almost any destination will be unknown. Go to the station and choose by whimsical criteria. C h 0 o s e a p l a c e b y i t s e v o c a t i v e n a m e ( Va l h a l ­ la, or Babylon, for instance, if you happen to be s t a r t i n g f r o m N e w Yo r k ) , o r t a k e t h e f i r s t t r a i n that’s leaving and decide how long you’ll stay aboard, or follow a passenger with an interest­ ing hat.

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5) The Budget Unknown
If train travel is beyond your means at the moment, ordinary bus and subway trips offer plenty of un­ known. Add ferries into the mix if you have them. Simply pick the destination you know least about or adapt one of the other methods above. Or set out on foot using psychogeographical systems: navigate o n e c i t y u s i n g a m a p f r o m a n o t h e r, d r a w a d i a ­ gram or picture on a map and try to walk it, follow a p a r t i c u l a r c o l o r, g o i n g f r o m r e d t o r e d t o r e d a l l afternoon

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6) A Little Help from Your Friends
Go to the station with one or more friends, agreeing to travel to separate destinations. Have each per­ son choose a destination they know nothing about, t h e n t r a d e d e s t i n a t i o n s w i t h e a c h o t h e r, c r e a t i n g a double layer of the unknown. Or make a chain with your friends, paying forward: buy a ticket for one f r i e n d w h o w i l l t h e n b u y a t i c k e t f o r a n o t h e r, a n d s o on.

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7 ) D e s t i n at i o n Pa r t y
Gather a list of all the destinations the right dis­ t a n c e a w a y. Gather timetables for all those desti­ nations (as many copies of the timetables as you have destinations). G ather blank notebooks, or m a t e r i a l s t o m a k e t h e m f r o m r e c y c l e d p a p e r. G a t h ­ er cards for the names of destinations. Gather big envelopes. Get together with friends over pizza or mexican food and fill an envelope for each destina­ tion. Include a card with the destination, a timeta­ ble, a notebook. Seal the envelopes and distribute however you like. Feel free to adapt this according to your own ideas and desires.

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Why Unknow?

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All around us is a mysterious landscape which OCCUPIES the same spatial dimensions as the one we are intimately familiar with. The unknown is everywhere intertwined with the known; to see it, w e o n l y n e e d b r e a k o u r o w n h a b i t s . Ta k e a w r o n g t u r n i n g o n e d a y. Navigate by mismatched maps. Get on a train with­ out knowing where you’ll end up. Psychogeography is the art of moving through space according to feelings and effects rather than ordinary purpos­ es. Like all the experimental arts, it seeks to break routine ways of being, hoping for the freshness of new experience. Psychogeography has a history that begins in Paris with the poet Baudelaire’s favorite figure, the “flaneur ” or drifter—one who spends the day walking through the city with no other purpose than to experience its ambiances.

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L a t e r, G u y D e b o r d a n d h i s c o m p a n i o n s i n t h e L e t ­ trist and Situationist movements briefly held the dream that “the new type of beauty can only be a b e a u t y o f s i t u at i o n s .” O n l y a n a r t o f c re at i n g “s i t u ­ at i o n s ,” t h ey t h o u g h t , h a d t h e p o te n t i a l to c h a n g e how people lived and felt. The situations they loved involved cities, going from one place to an­ o t h e r, c h a n c e e n c o u n t e r s .

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Here’s Debord: “Of all the affairs we participate in, with or without interest, the groping quest for a new way of life is the only thing that remains really exciting. Ae st h e t i c a n d ot h e r d i s c i p l i n e s h ave p rove d g l a ringly inadequate in this regard and merit the greate s t i n d i f f e r e n ce . We s h o u l d t h e r e f o r e d e l i n e a t e s o m e p rov i s i o n a l te r ra i n s of o b s e r vat i o n , i n c l u d i n g the observation of certain processes of chance and p re d i c t a b i l i t y i n t h e st re e t s . . . .”

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Psychogeography sets for itself the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, whether consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals. The charmingly vague adjective psychogeographical can be applied to the findings arrived at by this type of investigation, to their influence on human feelings, and more generally to any situation or conduct that seems t o r e f l e c t t h e s a m e s p i r i t o f d i s c o v e r y. ”

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Drawing from a variety of artistic sources beyond the Situationists (surrealist games, conceptual and land art, John Cage’s love of chance, Alan Kaprow’s happenings, Fluxus, recent developments in uncreative writing) as well as a long interest in travel as a psychic form (Australian songlines, pilgrimages, arctic explorations, tales of walking t h e H i n d u K u s h a n d r i d i n g t h e Tr a n s - S i b e r i a n express), The Bureau of Unknown Destinations has set out to develop a practice of unknowing. Tickets were given away because unexpected g i f t s p r o m p t a c t i o n . Tr a i n s w e r e c h o s e n b e c a u s e of their peculiarly contemplative atmosphere, at once melancholy and hopeful. by prompting train journeys to unknown destinations, the bureau hopes to physicalize the situationof being carried a l o n g t o w a r d s d e s t i n y.

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The goal is to interrupt ordinary instrumentalities, to intervene in the drive to get somewhere and get o n w i t h i t . To s t e p a s i d e , e v e n , f r o m o u r o w n p r e f e r ­ ences. John Cage was a master at this:

“ . . . . t h e a n s w e r m u s t ta ke t h e form of paradox: a purposeful purposelessness or a purposeless p l ay . T h i s p l ay , h o w e v e r , i s a n affirmation of life—not an attempt to bring order out of chaos nor to sugge st improvements in creation, b u t s i m p ly a way o f wa k i n g u p t o t h e very life we’re living, which is so excellent once one gets one’s mind a n d o n e ’ s d e s i r e s o u t o f i t s way a n d lets it act of its own accord.”

The Bureau of Unknown Destinations favors i n t e r r u p t i o n , d i s r u p t i o n a n d d e t o u r. abstaining from purpose for a time. embarking. It favors It favors simply

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