Thought is present in the landscape. There are questions that follow.
How does everyday experience set boundaries, and on the other hand create conditions for living in an urban environment? How does the urban landscape guide our thinking and actions regardless of what we – who see ourselves as rational and independent agents – do?
An example from a Bugs Bunny cartoon is in place. In the cartoon Elmer Fudd chases Bugs with his shotgun. Suddenly the doors of a passing truck delivering theatre props fly open and hats of various kind fly out, to be blown by the wind amidst the hunting scene.
As different hats land on Bugs’ and Elmer’s heads, they both adopt different roles. The prey becomes a gangster and the hunter becomes a cop. As the hats change, Bugs’ and Elmer’s roles transform as well, and the world opens out in front of them through new eyes. The cartoon is, obviously, an exaggeration, but it reveals all the same something essential about reality.
An urban person can also encounter their living environment in a somewhat similar manner as the characters in the cartoon. It really does make a difference whether you wear a leather vest or a miniskirt, whether you move around by car or on bicycle. Whether you see the street as a potential playground, or as a place that is there to transport you someplace else. Then the street itself is perceived mainly as an object of maintenance and the attitude towards is “The less noticeable, the better.”
Psychogeography (alaviite 1) teaches us how thinking and life at large are never isolated from the surrounding world, and nothing is as deceitful as a thought that is declared unbiased and objective, in doing downright injustice to the fundamental positive dirtiness of life that arises from the streets.
Streets and city squares, as public spaces, are part of a stream pierced by the tidal wave of social conflicts. Through them, various political tensions and conflicts are channeled out. Everywhere around us, battles are waged in public space, for a different kind of world and everyday life, even when the insurgency is spoken of with a Twitter prefix.
One of the most critical political questions concerns the regulation of public space: how are artificial boundaries created into public space, how are people’s movements controlled and channeled towards specific ends? Are we to waste away amidst the hectic pressures of everyday life, or does a city allow space for spontaneous drifting around? What kind of a psychogeographical map would you draw of Espoo? What kind of everyday experiences does the city of Espoo create conditions for and what kind of everyday experiences does it not have space for? These are some questions well worth actively exploring.
The author studied Philosophy at University of Helsinki for seven years, got his degree recently, and became unemployed, but prefers to regard himself as an active pastime agent for whom the street is a precondition of life.
Translation: Susan Heiskanen
The Situationist International, active in 1957-1972, developed the ideas of psychogeography as a critique on urban development dominated by the spectacle. They serve to question the worldview in the background of urban planning. Psychogeography explores why certain geographical environments produce certain sensations and what these sensations are like in a given space.