Deleuze on Walking

A schizophrenic out for a walk is a better model than a neurotic lying on the analyst’s couch.  A breath of fresh air, a relationship with the outside world.

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus.

Now Playing: Henry Flynt – C Tune

Field Trip Psychogeography

Zaha Hadid and Kirkcaldy

Interesting interview with iconoclast architect Zaha Hadid in The Guardian.

Hadid has recently won the The Stirling Prize for her National Museum of 21st Century Art, in Rome, which appears to resemble some sort of cubist Star Wars, AT-AT Walker.

National Museum of XXI, Rome. Design by Zaha Hadid.

For such a lauded and controversial architect (in Britain !) it is quite surprising to learn that she has only had two designs realised in the UK.  The recently opened Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton and her first built work in the UK: Maggie’s Cancer Care Centre in Kirkcaldy which was opened in 2006.




Hadid designed this building for no fee and the people of Fife, raised over £500,000 towards the cost of its construction.

Her design at the Victoria Hospital was a result of a brief to: ‘create a relaxed atmosphere where people can access additional support outside of the more clinical hospital environment’.  This challenge is in keeping with the ethos behind all the Maggie’s Centres which were the vision of the late Maggie Keswick-Jencks and her plea to improve care for people with cancer in the UK.  She was a firm believer in the capacity of buildings and space to uplift people, even in the most challenging personal circumstances.


Her husband Charles Jencks is still actively carrying this vision forward and five centres, have now been constructed across the UK, all designed by world-renowned architects: Frank Gehry in Dundee, Daniel Libeskind in Cambridge, Page and Park Architects in Glasgow and Inverness and Zaha Hadid in Kirkcaldy.

The site of Hadid’s Maggie’s Centre is in a hollow to the south-west of the main entrance of the hospital where it stands on the edge of a fairly steep valley to the South.  The hollow has overgrown foliage and a line of trees provides a natural setting to distance the building from the rest of the original hospital.  As the building is a single-storey construction, it provides a continuation of the border that the trees already provide. One of the overall objectives for the design of the centre was that it should be a transition between the two different types of spaces, the natural landscape and the car park/hospital.  This has arguably been undermined somewhat by the colossal new 525 bed extension which has been built immediately adjacent to the centre and you can almost feel it crowding out and pushing Hadid’s building into the valley.  This is further accentuated by Hadid’s design, with its angular prow and folded in wings, which appears to float over the edge of the steep chasm. Part spaceship, part cubist crow, poised to take flight out over the trees and on to the stars.

A truly liminal space…



Now playing: Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal

Psychogeography Symbol

Cup and Ring – Haunted by a Symbol

I am being haunted by a symbol!

During the summer a visitation to one of the richest sites of ancient psychogeographic energy – Kilmartin Glen. 

In particular the cup and ring marks at Auchnabreck, led to a fascination with this symbol that transcends cultures and geographies and yet refuses to yield up any verifiable meaning. Theories abound: possibly aesthetic, ceremonial, territorial or route markers are common propositions.

I stare at my iPod and the podcasting symbol. Whilst ostensibly a human form/antenna enveloped in concentric circles, it is clearly identifiable as a cup and ring symbol.

The latest edition of the marvellous music magazine The Wire pops through the letterbox. Cup and ring imagery radiates from the cover. ‘Noise in the ether: explorations in the art of radio transmission’. Dialed in, tuned in, picking up the signal.

Last night, Flower and Dancer are watching The X Factor. Before each contestant performs, they are enveloped in cup and ring digital effects.  Channeling their karaoke talents into the receptive cerebrum of popular culture.

In all of these images  I like the idea of transmission; of energy radiating outwards, of ripples on the surface of consciousness being picked up by the tuned in antenna.  Perhaps our ancient forebears were also receptive to this idea, way before the discovery of radio waves begat such an adaptable and iconic image.  These ancient rock carvings continue to transmit their own seductive energy and whilst the signal to noise ratio is weak, the dials are picking up the broadcast. Even the popular culture charms of the X Factor are not immune.

And what of these ancient symbols within the Fife landscape? I was delighted to find out about some perfectly preserved examples on Binn Hill at Burntisland.  A field trip for the collective beckons.

Now playing: Kayo Dot – Choirs of the Eye


Herzog on Human Language and Culture

But everybody talks about extinction of whales or endangered whales, and we are not aware that at the same time, at a much more rapid rate, human languages and cultures are dying out. And the speed of it is staggering. You see, within the next fifty years, 90 per cent of all spoken languages on this planet will have disappeared without a trace.

Q&A: Werner Herzog, New Statesman, 24th April 2009.

Now Playing: Morton Feldman – For Christian Wolff


The Solitary Walker

‘The solitary walker is, … an insurgent against the contemporary world an ambulatory time traveller’.

Will Self, Psychogeography, (London: Bloomsbury, 2007), p. 15.

Now Playing: Eno:  Here Come the Warm Jets

Field Trip Happenstance Psychogeography

The Lundin Links Stones

On the cover of Julian Cope’s album Rite is a picture of three colossal megaliths.  The human form giving some indication of the size and scale of this unusual grouping. Whether a function of crafted intent or the ageing process, the three distinctly shaped stones (especially the foregrounded ‘pin head’ or finger?) conjure up a strong sense of the uncanny when you see them up close.  Imagine my delight when I found out that these beauties, the remains of the largest of all the Scottish four-poster stone circles, are located in Lundin Links. Even more surreal is to find out they are presently located on the second fairway of a ladies golf course. It was a mild, drizzly day as I snaked along the A915, into the East Neuk. It was a bit of an opportunistic visit so hadn’t fully determined  the exact location of the stones. All I knew was that they were located on a golf course in Lundin Links.  Of course I hadn’t realised that there are two golf course in Lundin Links so initially stopped off at The Lundin Golf Club, which has the appearance of catering for the affluent, Edinburgh-on-sea weekenders who tend to congregate around this part of the coast at their weekend cottages. By this time it was a pretty dreich day so not a lot of people were around to ask.  I just set off, going on the basis that the size of these monsters should make them fairly easy to track down.  However, the landscape didn’t feel ‘right’. Largo Law was too far away, and the Lundin Club is right on the coast. Nonetheless I had an enjoyable saunter along the seaward side of the links, back towards Leven, watching the white breakers fizz on the shore.  I soon realised that this was not a landscape where sacred stones would be erected.  It was too windswept, open, and there was no relationship to Largo Law. Back I trudged, gazing up the coast and feeling the wind, spray and drizzle on my face. I had to be guided by the Law – what Julian Cope refers to (rather poetically) as a mother mountain – and set off once again in search of the stones. I soon found some signposts to the Lundin Ladies Golf Club and I could tell that this location was going to yield a more fruitful expedition.  I subsequently found out that Lundin Ladies is the oldest ladies golf club in the world (established in 1890) and is run completely independently by the lady members.  In the unreconstructed chauvinism of the typical male golf club, there was something quite radical and subversive about all this.  It was further confirmed when I asked two ladies who were loading their clubs into the car where I may find the stones and whether I need to seek formal permission to go and have a look.  They couldn’t have been more welcoming, and it was pleasant to observe their local accents and nay a set of pearls in sight.  As indicated, I crunched along the stone path to the starters hut and as soon as you turn the corner, you can see the stones way up the fairway in the distance. Once again, the starter was very welcoming and told me that there was no-one on the course so I could go and have a good look without worrying about any balls passing nearby. This time the land did ‘feel right’. A clear relationship is evident with Largo Law, and the stones nestle in the rolling foothills.  Notwithstanding the sand bunkers, tee boxes, and suburban sprawl on the south side, this still feels like a special place, and the light drizzle, absence of people and eerie quietness added to this.  As I walked up the edge of the fairway, the sheer size of the stones soon becomes apparent. These are towering monsters at thirteen, seventeen and eighteen feet high, with the finger/pinhead stone, twisting and pointing to the heavens, radiating a strange, seductive energy.  There used to be four stones, and apparently the fourth stone lay prostrate until around 1792 before it was no doubt removed for more utilitarian purposes. There is a local story that Michael Scot, the Wizard of Balwearie, summoned the demon familiars, Prig, Prim and Pricker to the sacred hill of Largo Law with a view to dismantling it.  As they began to dig, Scott had a change of plan and their single shovelful was thrown to create the nearby cairn of Norrie’s Law at the wonderfully named farm of Baldastard.  There is also a local story that a rich goldmine exists somewhere underneath Largo Law and that sheep have returned from grazing  on the foothills with golden fleeces. I guess that these stones must be one of the best kept secrets in Fife, (Scotland?) and yet as a site for experiencing the uncanny, difficult to surpass. I can understand that the good ladies of Lundin Links do not want hordes of trampling visitors all over their gold course, so perhaps there is something poetic that they remain available to the seeker and yet are well looked after and protected by the Lundin Ladies, drawing energy from their mother mountain. I wonder if it helps their golf? Thanks to Julian Cope’s magisterial The Modern Antiquarian. Now playing: John Barleycorn Reborn: Dark Britannica, V/A.


J.G.Ballard and The Edinburgh Riviera

From Will Self’s Psychogeography:

“I now realise…that Jim [Ballard], has made this Thames littoral his own…he is the purest psychogeographer of us all, ever dissolving the particular and the historical in the transient and the psychic. Making states into states of mind. From Terry Farrell’s spec office block – now occupied by the Secret Service – to Chelsea Harbour, and on upriver, the last fifteen years have seen a great and glassy burgeoning of these – Jim’s mind children – ‘luxury’ developments. At first rectilinear and concrete, latterly faced with ‘weathered’ boards, to give them that authentic ‘wharf’ feel, the apartments would be just as at home in Malmö or on the Mediterranean”

Will Self, Psychogeography, (London: Bloomsbury, 2007), p. 25.

From any suitable vantage point on the south Fife coastline, you can take in the vista of the stillborn ‘Edinburgh Riviera’.  A monument to pre-credit crunch architectural and financial hubris; a jamboree of two-bit, debt fuelled, property hustlers offering up their ‘luxury developments’ with status dripping names such as Platinum Point.  Come and enjoy your outdoor balcony and sun yourself to a crisp.  This triumph of hope and denial over meteorological reality, means that you are more likely to end up with a face like a skelped erse from the wind chill.   Now many of these ‘developments’ sit lugubriously, half-finished, and barely occupied behind their security fences. A post-industrial interzone, of deflated citadels still waiting for the sun.

Now playing: Brainticket, Psychonaut.


By Leaves We Live – From Geddes to Monbiot

A interesting article from George Monbiot recently in The Guardian which taps into the FPC’s interest in the great visionary generalist and ecologist Patrick Geddes.

Monbiot’s piece of 10th August, (‘We have allowed developers to rob us of our village green’ ) recounts a camping trip to an ‘ordinary campsite’ where the tents were situated around a square field. He observed the curious effect this had on the children staying there. Drawn towards the centre of field, children of all classes started playing together and engaging in communal activities whilst the parents started talking to each other. As Monbiot says: “it hit me with some force: we had reinvented the village green”.  The key point of his anecdote is that: “we are, to a surprising extent, what the built environment makes us”.

Inspired by this, Monbiot performs a trawl on related research papers which include conclusions such as:

  • People’s use of shared spaces is strongly influenced by trees: the more there are, the more people spend time there;
  • Vegetation in common spaces increases social ties;
  • Social isolation is commonly associated with an absence of green spaces;
  • Wealthy parts of a city usually have tree cover of c.10%. Poor neighbourhoods just 2%.

Monbiot’s main contention is that we have allowed property developers and weak planning to define who we are and what we shall become.  His prescription is pretty simple. Houses or apartment blocks should be built around a square of shared green space.  It ishould be big enough for playing ball games, contain trees and rocks or logs to climb on and perhaps a corner of uncut meadow or flowerbeds and fruit bushes. The space will work best when it is designed and managed by the people who live there.  Most important is that the houses face inwards and no cars can access the square.  The space is overlooked by everyone which means that children can run in and out of houses, unsupervised and create their own tribes.

The point that struck me most about Monbiot’s article is that almost all of his arguments were made equally forcibly in theory and practice by Patrick Geddes in the Old Town of Edinburgh in the late 1800s.

The themes that emerge in all of Geddes’s work include a pioneering, ecological approach to cities and their problems; arguments for self management, decentralisation, and the need for co-operative mutual aid. As Jonathan Porritt, the Green activist has commented:

‘For me he is one of those pioneers of what we now call sustainable development’.

During the 1880s, Geddes, was a lecturer of zoology at Edinburgh University and contributing entries to the Britannica and Chambers Encyclopaedias on scientific subjects whilst his range of interests had widened so that he was now publishing papers on subjects such as Statistics, Economics, Art Criticism, and Co-Operation as a political philosophy. Interestingly, after having studied with T.H. Huxley – ‘Darwin’s bulldog’ – Geddes did not subscribe to the tooth and claw, survival of the fittest doctrine. Like his friend Peter Kropotkin, Geddes considered mutul aid and co-operation as equally evident in the natural world – for example in the bee colony.

In his spare time, Geddes assembled a collective of like minded individuals to form an presciently named Environment Society which began a series of urban interventions using the Old Town of Edinburgh as a ‘social laboratory’ to develop both his social thought and to engage in practical social action. This was against the backdrop of the Old Town having some of the worst living conditions in Europe at the time and the observation was not lost on Geddes that the rent payments of the impovrished Old Town tenants helped to maintain the comfortable citizenry on the other side of Princes Street in the New Town.

Three months after marriage to Anna Morton, Geddes and his wife moved from the New Town into James Court in the Old Town.  James Court was a six-storey tenement housing some twenty-five families, primarily in single rooms, located on a common stair. This initiative allowed the Geddeses to acquire intimate knowledge of how slum dwellers were actually affected by their surroundings and what could be most readily done to improve them. The occupants of James Court were filled with a population belonging to the lower ranks of skilled labour including cobblers, blacksmiths and chimney sweeps. At first, the Geddeses were viewed with suspicion, but with customary zeal, they began the practical transformation of their immediate environment. His daughter, Nora, has recounted how Geddes quickly mobilised the tenement residents into clearing, whitewashing and window gardening.

In 1884, Geddes formed the Edinburgh Social Union (“ESU”) and it was Anna Geddes who encouraged Patrick Geddes to take cognisance of the philanthropic housing work being undertaken in London by Octavia Hill with the support of John Ruskin.  To give a sense of scale, beginning with two properties in 1885, by 1897, the ESU was responsible for managing 23 properties housing 450 families. It is also worth stressing that many of these properties would have been demolished by the municipal authorities without the intervention of the Social Union and Geddes’s practice of Conservative Surgery, which he likened to pruning the branches of a tree. What this meant was the preservation of old, structurally sound, buildings and transforming them into clean and usable habitations with rents maintained at levels that the working classes could afford.

From the outset, Social Union funds were also used for window box gardens and flower shows and art classes were given to ‘help to render homes beautiful’. These classes included: wood-carving, brass beating, stencilling, mosaic, and leather stamping. Entertainments were given in a number of properties on Saturday evenings consisting of music, recitations, magic lantern entertainments and tableaux. Libraries were also installed in many properties. Geddes as Head of the ESU art committee was also responsible for the introduction of decorative art into various public buildings. Some were quite modest such as reproducing Millais’ Parables in a Grassmarket Mission Hall whilst a history of corn in six panels was commissioned from the young Edinburgh Artist Charles Mackie. One of the major projects undertaken was the decoration of the mortuary chapel of the Sick Children’s hospital undertaken by Phoebe Traquair in 1885.  Also, as Glendinning and Page say, Geddes ‘almost single handedly set about the revival of mural painting in Scotland in the hope that decorating homes, schools and workplaces with scenes of national history and legend might help regenerate modern materialistic society’.

The important point about all these initiatives were that they were visible to the tenement inhabitants. As Geddes would later write: ‘to improve the condition of the people, the improvement must be on a scale that they can observe and realised; not frittered away piecemeal as are so many municipal improvements’.

Geddes’s initiatives in James Court were rooted in direct action from within the community and locality. His interventions were not party political but a recognition that the future depended upon creating the self-awareness and determination of the community at large in the development of the city’.

Geddes also began to provide University Halls of residence for students, which was unique in Britain, in that it was entirely self-governing with no warden or master. Students were required to co-operate and take mutual responsibility for its operation and student numbers increased to over 200. This initiative was part of Geddes’s vision of using the University as a means of cultural renewal and his objective was to bring students back to live in the Old Town where the great eighteenth century scholars had lived. This initiative also attracted a core of student acolytes to help him in his work and the spirit of this initiative was encapsulated in Geddes’s motto for the Hall: Vivendo Discimus – ‘by living we learn’.

Geddes’s always considered himself to be a garden-maker and the creation of gardens is a recurring feature of his urban initiatives throughout the world. For Geddes ‘the garden’ was an educational tool and apart from the aesthetic qualities he considered it as the ‘very best of savings banks, for in return for deposits of time and strength, the worker reaps health for themselves, and their children in air, in vegetables and in fruit’. They were also social spaces that brought people together and humanised the urban environment. Geddes’s Environment Society began to cultivate waste ground by making small gardens and planting trees, trying to encourage the tenement dwellers into a dynamic relationship with their environment. This was at the core of Geddes’s approach to urban social problems. Engaging folk with place to encourage an active and dynamic relationship with their environment.

I’m sure that George Monbiot would approve.

Now Playing: Ben Frost: Theory of Machines


Why Fife?

Why Fife?

The great sites of psychogeographic exploration have perhaps not surprisingly tended to privilege the urban environment with London and Paris the primary lodestones of psychogeographic endeavour.

Taking a lead from Patrick Geddes, the great polymath, regional theorist, activist and (as yet, unacknowledged) proto-psychogeographer, the FPC believe that both urban and rural environments are mutually constitutive and therefore equally valid as spaces for psychogeographic wanderings.

What better a site than Fife?  A virtual island interzone, betwixt and between the cities of Edinburgh and Dundee; an ancient Pictish Kingdom, bounded by the Firths of Forth and Tay.  Where a New Town is built on a 4,000 year old henge and 18 feet menhirs brood on a ladies golf course, under the shadow of Largo Law.  Not far away, the statue of  Alexander Selkirk, gazes out, projecting his own haunting presence into the psychogeographic mindscape.  If Selkirk was the inspiration for Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, it is the ghost of Robinson who wanders and stalks through many a tract of the psychogeographic imagination. Witness Rimbaud’s supposedly derived verb robinsonner (to travel mentally, or let the mind wander) or the unseen and unheard researcher in Patrick Keiller’s films London and Robinson in Space.

Ideas crackle, tussle and fizz, throughout the ether over this Scottie dogs heid. Kirkcaldy’s famous son Adam Smith  tossed a large brick into the pool of economic theory with a Wealth of Nations (and let us not forget The Theory of Moral Sentiments) written on a site now housing Greggs the Bakers.  The self-interest of the baker to supply us with Steak Bakes is alive and well. (The debate as to whether Smith, the moral philosopher, has been hijacked by the right will be left for another day). There is a also a hauntology of radical socialism. In Cowdenbeath, Lawrence Storione founded the Anarchist Communist League and West Fife elected Willie Gallacher as the first Communist MP.  In Lumphinnans you will find Gagarin Way, a street tagged in honour of the Soviet cosmonaut and from which Gregory Burke named his first play.

Concrete hippos and dinosaurs traverse the urban landscape in Glenrothes; cup and ring marks lie mute on Binn Hill whilst a green witch’s shop sits on the high street of Aberdour to deliver up soothing potions to the contemporary unwell.  A secret bunker channels cold war paranoia and the devil is reputedly buried on Kirkcaldy beach, interred by the occult energies of the dark magus Michael Scott.

These are just a few random scatterings from this space of possibilities. ‘A beggar’s mantle fringed with gold’… a palimpest of histories and vibrations.  A site for exploration.

Now playing: John Cage’s Etudes Boreales


Wanderings in Liminal Space

Occasional despatches from the Fife Psychogeographical Collective.  Field trips and wanderings in liminal spaces ….mapping the interstices of past, present and possible…..

From the Kingdom and beyond…