I used to live there, so I know it’s true.
Way back in the murky mists of time, when townies roamed the land and I had a keen dislike for myself and the world, I was once enrolled on a photography course.
This is somewhat the beginning of our story.
I sucked in the darkroom. I also sucked at doing coursework – mainly because I had a largely apathetic attitude towards it and everything else. I lived on a razor between nihilism, existentialism, hedonism and post-modern bohemia. The city was my wasteland. The city was my playground. Darkened rooms with stacks of CDs and MDMA were my natural habitat. Words and metaphor were my God. The beats’ and the beat went on. And on.
Man, I miss those years. When pretension was just another way of saying “I don’t give a fuck”.
I’d enrolled on the photography course because the previous year I had fallen in love with film after doing a film studies course. As film was just photography 24 times a second I thought it would be a good thing to check out. I had bombed out of my other A-levels through:
A) being in way over my head for reasons I won’t go into right now
B) aforementioned psychological states.
We worked with black and white film and analogue SLR cameras. And we worked in the dark, with the film, as was the mode for developing film by hand. As i mentioned, I sucked at it. I’m bad enough at doing things when I can see what I’m doing.
When I finished the course I ended up with an E.
Anyway, over on this old-ass blog you can see all the B&W pictures that I submitted for my coursework plus a bunch of colour ones shot digitally a few years later around the time I was at film school. There’s some nice shots of the freaky shit that you can find in prop departments.
Once upon a time I used to make films. I’ve been a little lapse in that regard the past few years, focusing on writing and what not, but I’m sure I’ll get back to it eventually. This short is an interesting example. It was left unfinished at a youth project in Cardiff and I was asked if I’d like to finish it off. I added a few touches of my own to make the protagonist more interesting. It was a great exercise in what can be done with something in post-production.
This started off life as an orphan project. A rough edit had been completed and a draft of a voice-over script. I completed the editing and, starting from scratch, wrote a script that added new depth to the original idea, further developed the protagonist’s character and took it in a somewhat different direction. Referencing an old victorian etiquette manual found on the Gutenberg Project I re-imagined our hero as having a somewhat schizoid personality.
Here it is on vimeo:
And if your device cannot handle vimeo, here it is on youtube:
When the extreme extraverted thinking model is faced with a ‘problem’ requiring a certain subjective/introverted perspective to truely understand and grap a thing, he authomatically reduces the problem to his own accumulated objective/extraverted knowledge and experience. Viewing the ‘problem’ through this filter gives an extremely narrow view of the ‘problem’, with only a few molecules of understanding beingh attracted to and sticking to his pre-existant knowledge/experience. This personality type appears quite often in the short stories of Franz Kafka.
“it is a fact of experience that the basic psychological functions seldom or never all have the same strength or degree of development in the same individual. As a rule, one or the other function predominates in both strenth and development.” [584/346]
The basic psychological functions are split into 5 groups under the two headings: Extraverted / Introverted
These are: Thinking/Feeling/Rational/Sensation/Intuition
Thusly is Jung’s model of being mapped.
“[the extraverted-thinking] type will, by definition, be a man [Or woman. Use yr imagination peoples!] whose constant endeavor – in so far, of course, as he is a pure type [if such a thing exists in the world] – is to make all his activities dependant on intellectual conclusions, which in the last resort are always orientated by objective data, whether these be external facts or generally accepted ideas.” [585/346]
I think what Jung is trying to say in his use of the term ‘last resort’ is that if the individual can’t think it out for himself he will rely on preconceived external data.
The objective-thinking type seems, to me, to embody the personalities of the majority of politicians/right wing nut jobs.
“Their best aspect is to be found at the peiphery of their sphere of influence. The deeper we penetrate into their own power province the more we feel the unfavourable effects of their tyranny.” [586/348]
“The thinking of the extraverted type is postivie i.e., productive. It leads to the discovery of new facts or to general conceptions based on disparate empirical material. It is usually synthetic too. Even when it analyses it constructs, because it is always advancing beyond the analysis to a new combination, to a further conception which reunites the analysed material in a different way or adds something to it. One could call this kind of judgement predictive. A characteristic feature, at any rate, is that it is never absolutely depreciative or destructive, since it always substitutes a fresh value for the one destroyed. this is because the thinking of this type is the main channel into which his vital energy flows. The steady flow of life manifests itself in his thinking, so that his thought has a progressive, creative quality. It is not stagnant or repressive. But it can become so if it fails to retain prior place in his consciousness. In that case it loses the quality of a positive, vital activity. It follows in the wake of other functions and becomes Epimethean [an afterthought]. Plagued by afterthoughts, contenting itself with constant broodings on things past and gone, chewing them over in an effort to anlyse and digest them. Since the creative element is now lodged in another function, thinking no longer progresses: It stagnates. Judgement takes on a distinct quality of inherence: It confines itlsef entirely to the range of the given material, nowhere overstepping it. It is satisfied with more or less abstract statements which do not impart any value to the material which in not already inherent in it. Such judgements are always orientated to the object, and they infirm nothing more about an experience than its objective and intrinsic meaning.” [592-593/351-352]
“Its habitual mode is best described by the two words “nothing but”. Goethe personifed this thinking in the figure of mephistopheles.”
Everything in its right place.
“Whenever somebody defends or advocates a cause, negative thinking never asks its importance but simply: “What does he get out of this?”"
“The trick [to pure extraverted-thinking] is to make it appear dependant on something quite common place.”
The Extraverted/Introverted Type
What does this mean for the screenwriter if the extraverted reacts to external objects, and the introverted with his own internal subjectivity? Surely, within a film script, protagonists must be of the extraverted type because, according to the screenwriting guru types, Protagonists are defined by action/reaction? (Okay, this may not be the complete truth, but stay with me here).
What if the external objects are in fact manifestations of the protagonists subjectivity? That everything within the diagesis can in fact be mapped, directly or indirectly, back to the protagonists unconscious? What if that’s why they came into existence in the first place? If you map your protagonists’ conscious/unconscious first, then develop the story and sub-characters second, what kind of film are you writing? How does this effect everything? Does this open you up to new realms of creative expression, or just picking a way to filter that creative expression in the first place?
( i’m thinking outloud here, btw )
Consider the play of the extraverted/external and Introverted/internal outlook in both Julian and Gethin, with each sliding between the these two extremes throughout the plot, in a kind of counterpoint. A character in a film could be considered extraverted by the very nature of the medium i.e. external factors (preassures cause the actions of the protagonists and sub-characters) but this does not mean that these external forces cannot be, in actuality, manifestations of the internal.
As there are two Protagonists (Julian and Gethin) in this paticular narrative, and neither one supercedes the other, do they in fact become in actuality two sides of the same character? Is this a useful way of looking at them? Also, as they also represent a comedy double-act, is this what the comedy double-act can be viewed as?
“A normal extroverted attitude does not, of course, mean that the individual invariably behaves in accordance with the extraverted schema. Even in the same individual many psychological processes may be observed that involve the mechanism of introversion. We call a mode of behavior extraverted only when the mechanism of extraversion predominates. In these caesd the most differentiated functions are in part unconscious and far less under the control of consciousness.” [575/340]
“…There is a constant influx of unconscious contents into the conscious psychological process, to such a degree that at times it is hard for the observer to decide which character traits belong to the conscious and which to the unconscious personality.” [576/341]
“Introverted thinking then appears as something quite arbitarry [to the extraverted thinker] while extraverted thinking seems dull and banal [to the introverted thinker]. Thus the two orientations are incessantly at war.” [581/345]
I recently excavated an old shortlived blog of mine on which there are about three posts worth saving. Here’s the first one. These notes were taken during a period of my life which was spent on the dole, skating into town everyday, hitting a few spots, knocking on friends, and generally putting myself about. I have a few poems from this period that seems to embody it quite well. Got them in a notebook somewhere. I’ll dig them out. The notes i was taking were research for an as yet unrealised screenplay.
“On one level this activity appears as urban escapism… it was a repositioning of the urban… The modernist spa e of surburbia was found, adapted and reconveived as another kind of space, as a concrete wave.” (refers to erly surf-style skating) (p.33)
“New hillside housing tracts lost their hideous urban negativity and emerged from the metamorphosis as a smooth uncrowded ribbons of winding joy.” (33)
“This recombination of body, image, thought and action lies at the heart of skateboarding – an integration of abstract and concrete, object and performance…”
“the third stage [of skating up a bank that goes vertical] is that stalling space-time where the skater reaches the top of the trajectory, hangs momentarily, and begins the kick-turn – for the skater, this is a highly phsyical yet simultaneously fantastical and dream-like experience, where space-time are confronted and frozen in a dynamic, yet stable instance.” (35)
“these aural salvos remind us that ‘space is listened for, in fact, as much as seen, and heard before it comes into view,” that hearing mediates between the spatial body and the world outside it, and that it is therefore not only in a cathedral or cloister that ‘space is measured by ear’. This is ‘sensuous geography’ created by a phenomonal experience of architecture, a ‘sensory space’ constituted by an “unconsciously” dramatised interplay of relay points and obstacles, reflections, references, mirrors and echoes.” (35)
note: ‘sensuous geographies’ (Paul Rodaway)
“…’working the surface’ involved thinking less about the pool wall as a concrete wave, and more as an element which, together with the skateboard and skater’s own body, could be recombined into an excited body-centric space.” (36)
Every cause in the known world seems to have a day dedicated to it but who exactly is in charge of this shit exactly and what gives them the authority to attempt to control our thoughts like this? In newspapers and light and vapid news programmes the call will be sent out that today is the day or the month where we’re supposed to think about these things. International no smoking day? How about international lick my festering lungs clean day? Leave your contact details in the comments and i’ll set it up.
April is international poetry month. Of course, it’s not international good poetry month so prepare for pain. Prepare to have poetry of all description shoved down your throat. One of the books I’m reading at the moment, reality overload, has a number of paragraphs discussing this approach to poetry – a sort of flattening of value and draining of meaning wherein all poetry is the same and is merely a commodity to be consumed. It’s a pretty involved book which I’m going to have to re-read with a dictionary on hand, but I’ve garnered alot from it. I hope.
I used to write alot of poetry, in a completely untutored way, but I don’t like alot of poetry. I used to do open mic readings alot as well. The types of places that have poetry readings are usually the kinds of places that cultivate culture like one would attempt to conservate an endangered species and as such draw crowds of, well, a mixed bag. The events ended up feeling quite sterile. I once got a knowing nod of respect off of an acclaimed poet as I got off the stage at one of these quite sterile feeling events – the event being centered around her reading. Her name is Pascale Petit and she was really quite good but her performance was totally marred by, dare i say it, the ambience of dead air. The poem in question was this one and it’s honestly a total mess, formless and making makebelieve at having a structure. Stil, there’s something about it that I’ve always liked.
In later years, having decided that the vast majority of poetry readings/open mic opportunities carried this same weight of dead air, but still finding myself writing and developing, having this sense in my head that poetry could be vital and full of life (the way it seems to be in Manchester at the moment), I started doing readings at an open-mic night at a club. Obviously, such spots were intended for musicians and I was in fact the only writer who read there. My performances there went pretty well. People used to come up with me and attempt to converse, ocassionally buying me pints of lager. On one ocassion the noise of people talking drowned me out and I started shouting. The moral of the story i guess is don’t ever give me a live microphone.
Since I’ve decided to give being a ‘novelist’ a go my poetry output has dropped a hell of alot. I want to come back to the form, give it a studious attempt for a change, but I barely trust myself to write a novel, let alone write a novel whilst studying and writing poetry, so it’s gonna have to wait.
Which brings us to this post on writers rainbow I found wherein the author encourages the novelist to step away from the keyboard and take on the techniques of the poet for a while.
Poetry, for me, is an intuitive process, very different from my work in fiction and prose, in which everything I do is analytical and purposeful and organic to my nature. I come from a storytelling family, so that has to have had some effect on me. I also continue to have trouble finding poetry that resonates with me. For such a short form, I find it wears me out, all the same. I like a puzzle as much as anybody else, but let’s keep it to jigsaws, crosswords and sudokus, I say. Give me access.
But one thing I admire about poets is their relatively low-tech writing practice. Most poets I know can write poetry wherever they are, whenever they are. A pen, a notebook, and a moment is all it takes to get them writing. Prose writers, on the other hand, are keyboard junkies (to be fair, if I hand-inscribed everything I ever wrote, I would have a terrible case of writer’s cramp!) who need outlets, laptops, perhaps a mouse and a thumb drive, to get their work achieved. Not all prose writers are like this…
I totally get what she is saying here. I used to fill notebook after notebook with scribbled notes and poems like i was shelling pistachios (i have a thing for pistachio shells) but since I’ve been on the prosetrain… My current notebook is like 3 years and it’s still far from filled. It’s definately something I miss – the spontinuity, the writing by intuition alone. these days notes are thought and grown invitro before even reaching a page or screen. There’s still intuition and spontinuity, but nowhere near as much.
Still, what is said is no absolute. Not all poets work this way. Not all prose writers work at the opposite end of the spectrum. The point is, i think, new perspectives and techniques are always valuable as your never quite sure where they will lead you and any creative process should be something of wandering into the unknown.
I was saying yesterday that nothing was striking me online. Nothing was crying out to be blogged. Today, a brief glimpse at Dangerous Minds has opened up a whole avenue of connections and pathways fired up in my head, skipping across synapses all the way down my spine, along my arms, out to my fingers. Now i have 12 tabs open for research, waiting to be integrated into this post.
Jason Louv, I’m coming for you man.
At first the thought was just the skeleton of paragraph, a lynchpin to build other words around, the introduction to this post. I was thinking “This post is going to take hours to write, hours that should be spent on my novel.” and my sense of humour being what it is i thought it would make a good introduction to make out that I was really angry, that i now had no choice but to write the post, and that it was all your fault.
But then something happened. Whilst I was thinking this lynchpin-paragraph-thought I was tamping coffee into my filter to be made into beautiful, gorgeous espresso. The only tamp i have is the crappy plastic tamp/scoop combo that came with the machine. My mind was not completely on the task at hand and I tamped too hard, pressure perhaps off centre slightly. The crappy plastic tampscoop snapped, the filter leaped from its holder, plumitting floorwards, arcs of finely ground coffee cutting parabolas through the air.
A mess, Mr Louv. A fucking mess. And now my tampscoop is just a tamp. I could of cried.
As far as i can tell this is actually your fault.
So now I’m really coming for you. I reckon i can scrape the money together for a plane ticket. I have a friend in cali, not sure where, in the south. Maybe an hour outside LA. That’s where you live, right? LA? Can’t be that big a city. I’m gonna find you and then i’m gonna drag your arse back here to ayrshire to clean my fucking kitchen.
Okay, maybe I haven’t thought this through very well. Maybe I’ll just clean my own kitchen. To be honest, it was already a bit of a state before this whole debacle started.
This post doesn’t really start with Jason Louv. This post really starts with Matt Dalby. I don’t know why he keeps popping up, I really don’t, but it was he that first introduced me to the concept of Psychogeography and taught me the name of Iain Sinclair. Appropriately enough I remember exactly where we were when he did.
We were walking through the Hayes in Cardiff. The Hayes is the home of the oldest record store in the world. It was established in 1894 and is still going today. Fiercely independant and full of musical gems, anybody who professes to loving music shops there. I love that little record store. Shortly before I left Cardiff The Hayes was undergoing some serious gentrification which meant the rent was being jacked up way high. Higher than Spillers Records could afford. The shop was in danger of closing. The people rallied around. Protests were signed and demos held. I kept my fingers crossed. As far as i can tell it all worked out.
He took his cues from Charles Baudelaire’s concept of the flâneur which, in Debord’s redefining of the concept became The Dérive. The difference between the two, with my lightly skirmishing eyes, is difficult to conceptualise but it may be political. Or personal. Or maybe the personal is the political. Anyway Debord defined psychogeography thusly:
Although it has been stated more recently as:
“a whole toy box full of playful, inventive strategies for exploring cities…just about anything that takes pedestrians off their predictable paths and jolts them into a new awareness of the urban landscape.“
The point is to dig, you dig? Not just to consume your environment as you would a billboard, going from point A to point B, but to let it in a way consume you, going from point A to some point that does not yet exist as a point.
In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones. – ‘Theory of the Derive‘
The Derive and the concepts of Psychogeography are a great way to get to know a place. For the artist or writer I would say they are indispensible tools. I remember at the time, when Matt told me about them and Iain Sinclair, that I intended to do alot of research into the subject. I don’t think I did. In fact, I think this is the first time I’ve really dug deep into the subjects, at least in any kind of specific way.
So, they drifted into the unconscious to fester and lay root.
A bunch of years later. 3? 4? I’m done with film school and unemployed. Matt has moved to manchester. I spend my days drifting through Cardiff, drawn to certain nexii. Friend’s houses, parks, libraries. In fact, I’m not drifting, I’m skating.
I’ve skateboarded from a young age. I was never very good at it. Far too clumsy with a poor sense of balance the world of tricks was something that mainly eluded me. But, god, did I love to skate. To roll along on a summers day was a special kind of bliss. To pull off a pop-shuvit or an ollie was, despite being the most basic of tricks, a great satisfaction. I actually miss it terribly and on the verge of starting up again.
Between all this drifting and rolling along i’m writing. I’m thinking. I’m reading. I’m making notes. I have an idea for a feature film. I have some pages I’d written, mainly dialogue, from years back, but lost in the ether. The idea still dribbles around my mind quite regularly, waiting to be born. One of the main characters is the city of cardiff itself.
It’s a semi-autobiographical movie. It features quite heavily some drifting around cardiff. Actually, it’s more missioning than drifiting – going from place to place with a purpose in mind. To be honest, the film is really a topic for another blog post, so let’s not get too caught up on it. I’m trying to stay on topic here.
One of the characters skates. It gets him where he wants to go faster than walking and it entertains him when bored. I figure there has to be some kind of semi-academic book on skateboarding so I go looking for it. I find it in one of the Cardiff University libraries.
I couldn’t get the book out so part of my day would be to go to the library and make notes from this book. I still have those notes. Fuck, I’m looking at them right now. Not as many as i would if liked cuz I got caught up on Jung in my head and began making notes on him instead. I shall put these quotes up here at some point. In the meantime check out the google books page for extracts from the text.
My point, within the context of this article, is that psychogeography and skateboarding are intrinsically linked. The skater views and interacts with the urban landscape in a way which reconstructs its purpose. Whereas the derive is about letting the city guide you to places beyond destinations, skateboarding is about taking destinations and aggressively co-opting them for your own means. When you skate you feel the city. Its bumps and contours, its steps and spaces, in a way that most people will never know. From my notes on my notes:
Skate spots are found, appropriated and co-opted. Taken out of their original context and re-imagined within the skater-deck-object nexus. This makes skateboarding almost a critique of capitalist-consumerism, a subversion of the dominant ideological reading of terrain – removing it from one, anti-human/nature/pro-commerce/societal context and integrating it into a more bodynaturecentric one.
and an actual quote from the book:
Skateboarders were here acting in a manner akin to anarchist communities, in that they tended to work with nature (found terrains) and to be spontaineous in their actions. Skaters, again like anarchist communities, also preffered to rapidly replace this spontaneity with the socio-spatial tactic of colonization whenever possible, such that established skateboard locations… generated their own names, boundaries, access conditions and internal culture (p.51)
I found these ideas very exciting, especially within the context of my Cardiff film. Being semi-autobiographical I had already made a caricature of myself one of the protaganonists and armed him with a skateboard. Now I found validation for doing so, opening up the film to further ideas by which it could be influenced. Psychogeography had made itself known through my creative ideas without looking at it directly.
Iain Sinclair was born in Cardiff and thus we come full circle… When he lived there I’m sure it was a very different place from how i remember it. Although he was born there it is not his home. London is his home and it is as part of the London avantgarde poetry scene of the 60s and 70s that began to make his name. With his poetry, films and novels he continues to this day to be known as “the capital’s visionary laureate”
Psychogeography is a talismanic term that Sinclair understands to have been cannibalised from French situationism. “For me, it’s a way of psychoanalysing the psychosis of the place in which I happen to live. I’m just exploiting it because I think it’s a canny way to write about London. Now it’s become the name of a column by Will Self, in which he seems to walk the South Downs with a pipe, which has got absolutely nothing to do with psychogeography. There’s this awful sense that you’ve created a monster.“
And thusly we come to the article which started this whole mess….
In London, from the first, I walked. As a film student, newly arrived in the early Sixties, I copied the poet John Clare on his feverish escape from Matthew Allen’s asylum in Epping Forest, when he navigated by lying down to sleep with his head to the north. Skull as compass: all the secret fluids and internal memory-oceans aligned by force of desire. Clare returned, as he thought, to Mary, his first love, his muse; to his heart-place, Helpston, beyond Peterborough, on the edge of the dark fens. My drag was cinema, Bergman seasons in Hampstead, Howard Hawks in Stockwell. Or art: the astonishing Francis Bacon gathering at the old Tate, at Millbank, former prison and panopticon. Bacon’s melting apes were robed like cardinals. Naked men, stitched from photographs, wrestled in glass cages.
Motiveless walking processed the unanchored images that infiltrated dreams of the shadow-belt on either side of the Northern Line. I lodged in West Norwood, a house on a hill, like the one I had left behind in Wales. I wandered through mysterious suburbs to the rooms above the butcher’s shop in Electric Avenue, Brixton, where the school was based. Street markets, I discovered, were a significant part of the substance of this place. Walking was a means of editing a city of free-floating fragments. I composed, privately, epic poems conflating the gilded Byzantium of W.B. Yeats with the slap and strut of Mickey Spillane’s California. London was an impossible relativity of historical periods and superimposed topographies.
(“An introduction to Lights Out for the Territory by its author, Iain Sinclair, who loves east London but not the forthcoming Olympic Games. The book traces nine walks across the capital.” via Dangerous Minds & Arthur magazine)
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little trip. There are plenty of links to click filled with interesting, exciting and heavy ideas to sink your teeth into. Writing it has pretty much swallowed the productive segment of my day and I now have a whole bunch of stuff to read my way through.