I am very interested in how we emotionally react to our surroundings when embarking on aimless wonders (otherwise known as a dérive). This concept is otherwise known as Psychogeography, which according to Guy Debord is:
“the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.”
The effects of a place on ourselves is very apparent in our day to day lives, from claustrophobic in the city to feeling free and content when back in the countryside. An interesting output from this is how people document their journeys through photography, writing, audio, video, sketching etc.
Being someone who does not know the surrounding areas of Westcliff-on-Sea and Leigh-on-Sea I decided to explore my own emotional reaction to these areas, whilst also documenting my travels at specific locations. I decided that I would do it in four ways: through photographing view-points from locations which drew me in; by taking audio recordings at these locations; using a GPS device, record the Longitude and latitude co-ordinates of these locations; lastly, I would also capture these places by recording them as semantic locations. The purpose of all this was as stated above, to explore emotional response, but with all of these tasks in place, it was also to see how this journey worked as an activity and as being something which could be mapped out afterward.
As well as absorbing information I also wanted to ‘hack’ the public space and leave something out there which would expand on the semantic locations. As can be seen below, this descriptions were very matter of fact and did not include any reasoning for choosing specific places or emotional reflection. I therefore decided to play on the concept of geocaching and leave my own mini containers (matchboxes so they would be biodegradable), containing my emotional reasoning.
Below is my documentation from the journey which I embarked on, starting with a map of the route:
1) Sat on a bench in front of Chalkwell Hall. 5th along from the left.
2) Standing on the bridge over the little stream which runs through Chalkwell Park.
3) Standing outside number 141 Kings Road.
4) Standing outside number 21 on The Drive.
5) In the park facing the row of shops on The Ridgeway.
6) On a wall, down a little lane, almost opposite Hall Park Avenue, between numbers 6 and 8 on the The Ridgeway.
7) Sitting on the wooden steps leading up to some mini changing tooms on the beach at the end of Chalkwell Avenue.
8 ) Almost under the railway bridge on Chalkwell Avenue. On your left as your walk towards the sea, just after the bridge.
9) Down a creepy walkway/lane thing behind the tennis courts.
10) In the ‘Nature Conservation Garden’ in Chalkwell Park
I tasked myself with this walk as it being something quite experimental and research based; I did not plan the route in advance nor I did not know exactly how I wanted to utilise the data collected from it. Having previously designed pervasive games and interactions in public space for other people in past work, it was refreshing to carry something out for myself and gage my own reactions to a piece, rather than thinking about the unknown other person. Interestingly, the journey became very algorithmic, each task becoming more embedded in every stop off and gradually turning into what one can only describe as laborious. I found it surprising, yet quite understandable, how something very much based on emotional reaction could mutate into something which felt very mechanic and almost forced. One could argue that the methodology set out by myself initially was bound to create this, through using GPS, taking down co-orindinates and writing down descriptions of locations as they were, elaborating on details as little as possible.
This still feels very much at the beginning of something to me. I am keen to carry out more ‘aimless walks’, in this way but at some point would also like to think about how other people could interact. with this project. It would be useful to use these ideas in relation to how local people perceive their area and emotionally engage with it.