Wednesday, 29 June 2011

archive #6 what is a derive?

Dear friends, lovers and loiterers

I hope you are keeping warm, positive and open minded in the current challenging conditions. Apologies this email is out of sync with First Sunday but there a few things I wanted to share

Recently I have been questioning the relevance of the derive and been fearful it has become commodified and recuperated by so many that as a tactic is has become meaningless . When the dark times are upon us how can walking help? Have we become nothing more than social ramblers? It is true the term has been misinterpreted, misused and devalued by some utter tosh, much of if very expensive and flashy.

I was feeling sad about this but then, of course, i went for a wander and felt again the rush of excitement at an unexpected view, a serendipitous collision with the path of a friend and then I paused to hear the whispers beneath the roar of Christmas shopping.

Yes! The derive is still a relevant and beautiful tactic but it must be only one of many if we are to create our fantasy city. David Wilkinson made me cheer when he wrote to me “we are never too late, recuperation is never total or infinite. History is a process – (it was said) history was over, capitalism was smooth and efficient and people had forgotten how to fight back, And look where we are now! Student occupations and Len McCluskey make me do silly happy dances. There’s lots of places you can stand within a fundamentally contradictory society, both metaphorically and physically”

Psychogeography is an evolving and rich tradition; it has changed over time and will doubtless change again. The Situationist Internationale still holds an abiding fascination for me. Of course their true power is contested and accessibility, openness and co-operation (which The LRMN strive for) were perhaps not their strongest points. However their echoes resonate, perhaps now stronger than ever with student occupations, the return of the Okasional Café to Manchester (hooray) and roving protests disrupting the spectacle of christmas consumption whist striving to avoid kettles – such protests are nothing if not psychogeographic albeit on an unconscious level amongst the participants.

Possibly my favourite SI work deals with what, for me, is key to true social change – the integration of ideas into a "Revolution of Everyday Life" where everything we do is meaningful; a separate activist class is as damaging as being ruled by a cabinet of millionaires. “People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal of constraints, such people have a corpse in their mouths” Raoul Vaneigem.

One of the most elegant descriptions of the derive I have found is by Greil Marcus who says “The point (is) to encounter the unknown as a facet of the known, astonishment on the terrain of boredom, innocence in the face of experience. ..the physical town replaced by an imaginary city” He is clearly a wise man, and not just because he has also eulogised the best (well, my favourite) band in the world

Builing on this The LRM have identified 5 key characteristics that derives have that make them different to a commute or suchlike.

1 It should be spontaneous, directionless, aimless (obviously sometimes we have interpreted this flexibly or we would miss the story telling bit at the end… but we never know how we will get from a to b…we follow the flow and are open to digression, diversion and serendipity)

2 Loitering with us is participatory and everyone has a collective responsibility to look after themselves and each other . It would be disingenuous to say we are non hierarchical but we are open to everyone and anyone can become involved, we are always up for collaboration and will never claim to be offering a definitive version of the city (how could we?)

3 Our walks are non commercial; no one makes a monetary profit. We will never charge because the streets are free and belong to everyone.

4 And yes, this may contradict point one a little bit but so what? We aim to disrupt the banal and find new views; to glimpse the magick in the Mancunian rain and the parallel universes swirling around the city. We want to see remarkable sights and with the right frame of mind we can do so frequently

5 First Sundays are for fun and we want to bring pleasure and convivial company. Stop if you are not happy (some walks of course investigate uncanny or dark atmospheres but still should be a positive experience)

I am not idealistic enough to think this is all it takes to change the world but I do believe loitering makes a contribution on the side of good. I must also stress it is a state of mind and you don’t need the LRM to show you how to derive, we don’t know any more than you do - many of us disagree with much of the above - and in fact actually the most wonderful walks are often solitary.

I should also clarify there is a warm place in my heart for expeditions such as guided walks, especially those borne of passion that tell new stories about the streets, complicate official narratives and help us look afresh at the mundane. For examples of inspiring walks like this just think about Manchester modernist society walking the Mancunian way or Steve Millington reconnecting with Hulme. (there are others too of course)

If you have read this far I am grateful and I also want to send a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has helped make this such a splendid year for The LRM whether by joining us on the streets or sending virtual inspiration. I wish you all a glorious solstice and whatever you wish the festive season to be.

First Sundays carry on regardless of Yuletide, and I wanted to confirm we will be gathering on January 2nd – more details to follow. we will as ever be marking seasonal changes and abandoning the official path to create new desire lines across the city.

With love and light
Morag xx

PS I just got this email from a first time loiterer who joined after Alan and I spoke to the uni philospophy society about psychogeography ( a talk we hope to reprise for a general audience some time soon) “We had an amazing time. We found a hundred hidden delights and realised that half an hour later we were still only really just behind the pub” above all the derive is an action, a practice, not just a theory so please do come and join us next year

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