2: The Dérive

Most discussion of psychogeography centres around the practise of the dérive, the Drift. According to the Situationists, this is “quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll”, since it involves “playful-constructive behaviour and awareness of psychogeographical effects”.

The essay Theory of the Dérive provides discussion and techniques of Drifting. Those involved suspend their normal obligations and motives, letting themselves “be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there”. Rather than a single group, the best results are achieved from several small groups that can cross-check their impressions to produce “objective conclusions”; too many people and the Drift loses cohesion. The average duration is a day, from waking to sleep, but the time can range from a few hours to several days. The results taken allow the city to be mapped and navigational charts produced of the relationship between different zones and ambiences.

Given how influential Situationist ideas of psychogeography and drifting are, there are few examples of what they intended, of exactly how walking through a city was supposed to further revolution. Merlin Coverley writes that “one cannot help but notice that, while the theoretical and instructive elements of psychogeography are manifest, the actual results of all these experiments are strangely absent… one is hard pressed to find any concrete evidence… of psychogeographical activity.” Indeed, Ralph Rumney was expelled from the Situationist for being late with a psychogeographical report on Venice.

The random methods so beloved of modern psychogeographers are treated cautiously in Theories. “If chance plays an important role in dérives this is because the methodology of psychogeographical observation is still in its infancy”. It will do for now, in place of more useful techniques. What’s interesting is how modern few psychogeographers are exploring the methods that might take the place of an arbitrary shape drawn on a map. It’s as if any desire to develop the Drift ended with the Situationists.

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One thought on “2: The Dérive”

  1. It is interesting that you would choose to write this. I have given much thought to the fate or Rumney and consider it to be just, although some would say unnecessarily cruel. I am grateful for his full recovery. This is an account I have written of the incident.

    The story that I am about to tell you is true. The man who we chose, for being late with a psychogeographical report on Venice, was left fighting for his life after being bitten by a shark in what was, incredibly, his second such attack in less than a decade.

    Ralph Rumney was operated on several times in 24 hours as doctors worked to save his life after a marathon effort to bring him to the mainland from 200km out to sea.

    Rumney, 55, was diving for cod on Tuesday morning off the coast of Dungeness, when the great white shark attacked.

    Police were alerted at 10.30am local time on Tuesday, but Rumney did not reach Glasgow hospital until the evening. He was first brought to land by divers, taken to Eastbourne hospital by ambulance and then airlifted over 700km to Glasgow.

    A kill order has been issued for the shark which attacked Rumney but the Doctors have conceded they will not be able to tell if it is the right shark until after they have killed it.

    Rumney spent 10 hours on the operating table at Glasgow hospital and has been listed as in a stable condition. He is expected to hold a press conference in the next few days.

    He was first attacked by a shark in 2004 when he put himself between a 1.5m bronze whaler and a friend in waters north of Wales. He was bitten on the leg and at the time said it did not hurt as much as he thought it would.

    “If sharks are hungry they can snap,” he told me at the time. “All can be calm and then they just explode into action.”

    The Doctors who operated on poor Ralph Rumney ordered traps be set up to capture and kill the animal. They announced the shark was a danger to every person in the area but warned it could be long gone from the area and it was possible the department would kill the wrong one.

    “We probably won’t know for sure unless there’s evidence of DNA that we will be able to test,” the Doctors told me on Wednesday.

    It is the second time a kill order has been issued by a doctor. The last was also for a great white, although it was never found. Instead, two tiger sharks were captured and tagged before being placed in a dungeon.

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