- Written by Tae Ateh
its 15 years since our VPA editorial but idiots like mckenzie wark and the so-called new psychogeography demand some comment from us.
“Thankfully, the ‘New Psychogeography’ and the ‘New Movement in Walking’ are both relatively free of what Nato Thompson calls “the culture of gotcha…. soft witch hunt, outing the secret capitalists” and for the continuation of its good prospects it needs to keep itself that way. ” (from “psychogeography now” by some white man)
Thankfully? Why? Because it allows a white male safe space? It seems to be a safe space in fact for capitalists he is celebrating and so the claims he makes earlier in his text of a radical subjectivity fall flat on their face. clearly this radical subjectivity is not based in class space and time ie gender race and class…
Its not suprising that the revolutionary psychogeography of our own selves or indeed comrades such as the LPA or the NXTPA is excluded from all this reactionary new white bright alright psychogeography. The occult is of course unnaceptable to academia and bourgeois science. It is for the same reasons that it speaks to the non-European subjects of the neo-colonial city. in this regard it is no suprise that some want to talk about “Contemporary British Psychogeography” (eg the BFI recently published a list of “british psychogeography cinema”!!!) – the nationalisms begin to be made explicit and yet no problem is seen with this. London (and indeed the large cities) being a much less white dominated city than the rest of britain, its no suprise that London for them is Sinclair and Self and no mentin of the LPA
As usual what the “new pschogeography” and also those who write about “neo psychogeography”spectacularly(!) avoid is the real place of the you – of them self – and the situation that this engenders. this is the basis of Letterism: placing yourself before you embark – as a letter a name a nation and finally as a situation – as the dimensions of Class as well as Space and Time. This is what the writer snidishly refers to as a “witch hunt” – to avoid any responsibility and personal privilege inherent in our positions in the spectacle (commodity relations) itself. This is why we have moved from talking about psychogeography to talking about reproductive work (psychic work etc).
Even king knobs like Prigent fail to realise that whatever (cultural) work you do – paid or unpaid – in commodity form or not – you are going to be producing (cultural) capital (reproducing your own alienation, as Stewart says!). So why writing long essays about people who write books is somehow more revolutionary than making paintings is never addressed by these self declared radicals. Like Debord they fail to grasp the abc of Lettrism. But now instead of Francophilia they succumb to Anglophilia. No wonder Vague called his pamphlets “english psychogeograhy”. the logical extension is of course british airways contracts and the world of cultural imperialism. even this article being written in english is subject to the same pull.
So we can’t talk about psychogeography without also the Lettrist precursors of Hypergraphy and Metagraphy as well as the Situationist innovation of Situography: This is why the text was to be disrupted by images, photos and not just detourned ones. Paint marks, symbols, letters and actions – and the situationist would always feature themselves in their images their words in their own productions whether it be cinema text or images rather than just detourne already existing material .
We should aknowledge there that there are some good points in the new psychogeography. There does appear to be less of a male dominated body and some prominent women taking a lead. Already this has reintroduced a more conscious Class perspective. And reproductive work is for the first time becoming part of the psychogeographic agenda. And it also seems that it is potentially this mileau that is addressing race as crucial to psychogeography. It is no coincidence that it was the the most prominent woman in the SI, Michelle Bernstein that wrote the devastating self-critique in her thesis on psychogeography. Nor that it is a woman, who has taken this critique up and expanded on it. to effectively produce a critique of the SI that clearly identifies institutional racism and cultural imperialism. Andrea Gibbons is a professor of urban geography which will no doubt anger some. However while their own praxis consists of reproducing white male anglo domination they remain on the wrong (or is it right) side of history (HESSstory/ geogRAFy).
The very important focus on reproductive work seems evident at the 4th World Congress recently – but no matter how ironic the title was meant to be it still manifests as cultural imperialism. especially so when delegates from other European states are attending in the name of what then is clearly a hollow internationalism. Its an issue the psychic workers union DAMTP have been working on from 2009 – 2015, through splits and schisms with first Bifo and his Bifoons and Anarchists and then Giles Dauve and his Ultra Leftists until it has potentially imobilised the group through its inability to fight visa and border regimes effectively enough to sustain a revolutionary trajectory.
Despite the difficultuies I am pleased to report though that the author of “psychogeography now” has proved willing and able to take these issues on – a note to other white people – yes it can be done! Since I quoted him before I will do so again:
“I think you’re right – if it’s not thought in gender race and class space and time it’s not of any help at all; indeed the reverse. So, I’m going to try and think it through in that way….
This was never going to be easy. Yes, psychogeography is colonial, absolutely. I don’t come at that from a theoretical analysis, but from the experience of years of ‘derive’ drifting; that’s what powers these space, colonialism in ruined or neo-states. And psychogeography is the aestheticization of that; which makes it a possible, and compromised, grounds for confronting it.”
Its good to see this stark contrast with those who follow Debord with a slavish enthusiasm. And in this regard Debord’s total denial and inability to deal with institutional racism of the IS is echoed by those like McKenzie Wark as evidenced in the above facebook flaming by Tae Ateh. Pro or post situ here is all the same. Even “recuperation” doesn’t describe it – and its no suprise that this is the king knobs’ favoured term of disparagement. Because recuperation implies that the praxis was perfected revolutionary to begin with. it wasnt then and the rehashing of it definitely isn’t now …