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Psychogeography is a collection spanning five
years of Will Self’s columns from The Independent
newspaper, prefaced by a longer account of
walking – psychogeographically – from South
collaged maps into which Debord inserted
London to New York (with a medium-length
statements about the reception of his early films
aeroplane adventure in the middle). The key
and his current vexations. British cartoonist (and
to success as a psychogeographer is an ability
longtime Hunter S. Thompson collaborator)
to retrieve (for yourself) and deposit (for your
Ralph Steadman plays Jorn (the former’s
reader, should you be offering the results of your
illustrations, with their splatters of ink and the
experiments up for the amusement of a larger
odd photocollages, are surprisingly reminiscent
audience) large dollops of your ego wherever it is
of the latter’s) to Self’s Debord (and Self clearly
that you, like some map-less orienteer (for being
has an ego to match that of the famously
a psychogeographer in the age of GPS is self-
megalomaniacal Frenchman).
consciously antediluvian), may roam. Or as Self
So what is psychogeography today? Is it
puts it when discussing the merits of J.G. Ballard,
simply about being in a place (in the sense of
it’s about ambling round town and making ‘states
noticing it rather than merely passing through it),
into states of mind’. Where Marcel Proust simply
being more in a place (noticing it and allowing it
has his cake (allowing the taste of a madeleine
to trigger episodes dredged up from history –
to trigger his epic voyage into the past), the
what the place used to be – and memory – how
psychogeographer chomps down on an entire
the place relates to yourself) or not being in that
swathe of city.
place at all?
And so Self’s epic journey (the one to
In general, psychogeography comes
New York, more so than any of the brief episodes
across as little more than a conceit (only really
that follow) becomes an excuse to map out his
addressed in and of itself during the introduction)
self – ‘This is who I am and where I come from,
to tie together Self’s collected musings. But
these are the locations for some of the books you
that’s not to say that moments of insight don’t
may remember me for having written (or if not,
shine through, such as when thoughts about
will hopefully go out and buy now that you have
the geographical strangeness of being in
read this one) and these are some of my famous
Havana (a theme restaurant) in Brighton spark
friends and some of the less-well-known people I
off meditations on Graham Greene’s ability to
hang out with. (PS: You should take it for granted
write novels set in foreign locations (including
that I will be relating all this to various places and
Brighton) to which he’d never been. The dangers
situations in what is to come.)’
of this process of projecting the mind (ultimately
In this form his book has a strong (and
the self) onto the space that constitutes
acknowledged) relation to Mémoires (1959),
psychogeography: there’s no point going
a collaboration between the Situationist gang
anywhere, because all you’ll realise in the end is
boss Guy Debord and the painter Asger Jorn
that you were always already there. Of course,
(whose sandpaper cover famously ground down
as Self promotes walking, cycling and a general
any books it was shelved between) featuring
travelling equivalent of Slow Food, you could
argue that there’s no better message than that
in our green, ozone-lean and environmentally
conscious times. Mark Rappolt
PsychogeogRaPhy
By Will Self, Illustrated by Ralph Steadman
Bloomsbury, £17.99 (hardcover)
Artreview 132
FEB_books.indd.indd 132 8/1/08 12:49:42
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