Shirin Abu Shaqra

Psychogeography (Photos – 2012)



When wondering how do we find our way in an overly destroyed or in a reconstructed city that one cannot relate to, I came across the practice of ‘songlines’, this animist belief that enables Australian aborigines to find their bearings across great stretches of land. How can these ‘songlines’ be applied to modern unrecognizable cities? Take the residues of an old house next to which a modern building has been built. Between them, one notices how nature has gained the upper hand on a stoned wall which, in its turn, has a 19 th century shaped like wrought iron sticking out. The first thought which comes to mind is the stratification of time. But if one imagines that in this location a discussion took place. A discussion leading to a contract that changed the life of such and such a community, then the ambiance tells a story. If these stories are put side by side, they would already draw a first ‘songline’. During postwar Europe, a group of urban planners wanted to design cities according to human psychology and not according to its buildings and neighborhoods. They called this concept ‘psychogeography’. Just like our emotions, we would have for instance the happy, the bizarre, the historical, the useful, the sinister quarter. I obviously choose to represent the later.

The Sinister Quarter, for example, would be a good replacement for those hellholes that many peoples once possessed in their capitals: they symbolized all the evil forces of life. The Sinister Quarter would have no need to harbor real dangers, such as traps, dungeons or mines. It would be difficult to get into, with a hideous decor (piercing whistles, alarm bells, sirens wailing intermittently, grotesque sculptures, power-driven mobiles, called Auto-Mobiles), and as poorly lit at night as it is blindingly lit during the day by an intensive use of reflection. At the center, the “Square of the Appalling Mobile.” Saturation of the market with a product causes the product’s market value to fall: thus, as they explored the Sinister Quarter, the child and the adult would learn not to fear the anguishing occasions of life, but to be amused by them…

CHTECHEGLOV Ivan, Formulary for a New Urbanism, originally published in 1953,
electronic version in The Library of Nothingness, , last retrieved on 28 th of April 202




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