Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Financial Psychogeography: Suitpossum joins forces with CurioCity London

It’s a pleasure to announce that I will be syndicating out blog-posts to the website of the great new London-focused magazine CurioCity. CurioCity was started by Matthew Lloyd and Henry Elliot in early 2010, originally as an informal handmade pamphlet to distribute to friends and family. Back then, a group of us wrote articles and put together the first issue in Henry’s lounge in Kennington. It’s come a long way since then, and the first professionally printed version is now being stocked in iconic London outlets such as Foyles and Rough Trade. The website has now been set up to provide a regular flow of high quality pieces centered on London, suggesting ideas for experiences that are fun, educational, and that encourage a deeper engagement with the city.

Urban adventures in financial landscapes
My main focus is going to be ‘Financial Psychogeography’. ‘Psychogeography’ is a word that means different things to different people, but I’m taking it to refer to:
  1. the exploration of cityscapes with the deliberate intent to break down oppressive or hegemonic ideas embodied in, or implied by, the physical space
  2. and in the process seeking to reinvent or replace those ideas with unorthodox visions and alternative viewpoints… or something like that
Psycho-geography is about trying to identify the subconscious mental programmes that get installed in us by our physical environment. It’s also about creativity. It’s about trying to hack those programmes and reconfiguring the codes of mental DNA that condition how you perceive something. A greater awareness of physical space allows one to take mental control of it, and to re-enchant the cityscape with new perceptions. So basically it's an excuse for me to wonder around financial landscapes and reflect on them, considering what they might teach me about the world, how they might affect the way I think, and then maybe how the dominant ideas they impart can be challenged. This might be an epic waste of time, but if nothing else, it should provide a couple of fun outings and opportunities to embarrass myself.

A brief history of psycho-geography

If you look up the Wikipedia article about psycho-geography, you get some background history which says that psycho-geography was something developed by the Lettrist International, who broke away from some other group (also called the Lettrists) in France. It was spearheaded by a guy called Guy Debord, coming out with classic quotes like ‘the most urgent exercise of liberty is the destruction of idols’. Guy later wrote ‘The Society of the Spectacle’, a classic piece of ‘fuck-you authorities’ literature. By all accounts he and his mates were something like the French equivalent of Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg, promoting a type of avant garde Marxism-meets-art sensibility, getting involved in the May 1968 wildcat strikes, and inspiring a generation of Gaulloises adverts and films like The Dreamers. Certainly, psycho-geography does bring to mind intense French students sitting around in cafes chain-smoking and fiercely debating the nature of the world. At its worst, it’s a load of pretentious bullshit, but if it’s done right with a bit of tongue in cheek, it can be a lot of fun. If it’s done really right, it can be transformational. Later generations of psycho-geographers like Iain Sinclair and Will Self have done a lot to bring to life the hidden codes of landscapes, and hopefully I can do the same in CurioCity.

Here is some footage of the launch party. I’m playing guitar in that.

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