Published OnlineEdited and Accepted Articles

Walking the Senses, Curating the Ears: Towards a Hybrid Flaneur/Flaneuse as ‘Orchestrator’ / Bill Psarras


Dr. Bill Psarras
Artist, Adjunct Lecturer – Dept. of Audio and Visual Arts, Ionian University

Email: vasillis.psarras@gmail.com
Web: http://billpsarras.tumblr.com/
Reference this essay: Psarras, Bill. “Walking the senses, curating the ears: towards a hybrid flaneur/flaneuse as ‘orchestrator.'” In Sound Curating. Cambridge, MA: LEA / MIT Press, 2018.
Published Online: December 15, 2018
Published in Print: To Be Announced
ISBN: 978-1-912685-55-4 (Print) 978-1-912685-56-1 (Electronic)
ISSN: 1071-4391
Repository: To Be Announced

Abstract 

The current paper investigates the aesthetic, sensory and live aspects of sound through the conceptual and cultural impact of the flaneur and psychogeography in contemporary and technologically mediated walking practices in the city. Various approaches based on the traditions of flaneur, psychogeography and performative walking as art have reverberated throughout the 20th century, yet mostly they have been founded upon the visual. Culturally speaking, these approaches have not only made walking a dynamic process of aesthetic, poetic, sensory and political potential, but have informed later contemporary art practices by revealing emerging hybridities. This paper proposes a modern hybrid flaneur/flaneuse of the 21st century city, whose approach reconsiders, ‘orchestrates’ and curates the sensory qualities of walking (i.e. sonic, tactile) through hybrid constellations of technologies (i.e. audiovisual, locative), socialities and performative methodological frameworks. While a number of artists are mentioned in this paper, the sound-based walking artworks of Christina Kubisch and Janet Cardiff constitute the main platforms for reflection.

Keywords: 

Hybrid flaneur, walking as art, senses, sound, audiovisual technologies, city, metaphors, performativity, locative technologies, shared spatial practices.

 

A Chronology on the Aesthetics of Urban Walking

Historically, walking has been the nexus between human and city, bringing the subject within a rich constellation of socio-political and techno-cultural rhythms and patterns – it is a process with sensory and emotional potential. Walking is an action embedded in our subconscious and yet it remains both an “obvious” and “obscure thing.” [1] Walking is a notion with open meanings; it encloses its potential in multiple levels; the sensory, the everyday, and the poetic, metaphorical and aesthetic. In the last century, philosophical thinking about walking in the city has been perhaps most closely associated with Charles Baudelaire’s concept of the artist-flaneur.

Baudelaire’s flaneur epitomized the walking male observer of emerging modernity in 19th century Paris, who was often a painter or a poet. Metaphorical descriptions of the era mention a “walking daguerreotype who retains the faintest traces of things” [2] in the multisensory midst of city – what Baudelaire described as the “transient and fleeting.” [3] The cultural significance of the flaneur found new paths and directions in the early 20th century. Walter Benjamin wrote of the array of elements that he encountered as he ambled through the cities of Europe. Benjamin’s approach illustrated the author-flaneur (similar to Baudelaire’s artist-flaneur): a freely moving persona, navigating through streets and arcades of consumption, mostly producing aesthetic texts and written accounts of his experience. Such description could illustrate Benjamin himself as he produced a number of aesthetic texts – what he called urban diaries – during his stay in different European cities (Naples, Moscow). During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the urban scenery saw dramatic changes in its spatial, social and sensory make up. The effects of Haussmanization in Paris impacted on the overall planning of the city; altering the perception of the walker. The previous urban maze was transformed into a commodified bigger streets, pavements and arcades. Such spatial changes signified the birth of consumerist culture and the phantasmagoria of display, bringing forward a sensory and emotional shock for the flaneur, which is apparent in Benjamin’s words for the flaneur as “someone abandoned in the crowd” [4]. The new sensory reality was characterized by a thick veil of commodities; intoxicating the Benjaminian flaneur, transforming him into a distant aesthetic spectator of everyday rhythms and social strata. Sensorially speaking, there was a potential paradox in this conception. While walking inserted the flaneur into an ocean of stimulating intensities, Benjamin’s observations were mainly limited to visual consumption, a “gastronomy of the eye.” [5] While Benjamin brought the Baudelairian flaneur into the early 20th century city, an array of artistic voices including the Dadaists, Surrealists and Situationists provoked new consideration of urban wandering. During 1921, a number of Dada artists conducted a series of walks into the banal and abandoned spaces of Paris, what they called ‘visit-excursions’. Their action intended to celebrate such peripheral spaces as sites of freedom within the surrounding urban order, highlighting the interconnections between public space and power relations that Henri Lefebvre analyzed later in the 20th century. What is more, their aesthetic statement moved from the interior display to the outer public space; delineating a need to pass from the artistic representation of urban experience into an embodied habituation of the everyday urban settings. Their walking action formed an initial aesthetic expression located within the everydayness of the city. The Surrealists formed their own interpretation of walking in the city through their concept of ‘deambulation’. They highlighted the disorienting aspect of walking – a process which allowed the walker “to enter into contact with the unconscious part of the city.” [6] The Surrealists’ approach was criticized by Situationists International, who argued that deambulation failed to recognize the potential of walking by limiting its scope to solely a personal engagement with the unconscious. The Situationists and their founder Guy Debord radicalized the concept, proposing the method of dérive and the conceptual framework of ‘psychogeography’. The Situationists’ walking – the ‘dérive’ – was based on a playful “rapid passage through varied ambiances” [7] of the city: a political act, set outside of bourgeois society. This psychogeographical dérive enabled new ways of experiencing and intervening in the city, bringing together walking with experimental cartography, and enabling new representations of experience.

During the 1960s and 1970s Fluxus artists used walking as a performative action in relation to other artistic media (painting, music, theatre, sound and video). The experimental character of such actions opened new vistas on the performative, political and poetic dimensions of walking. Artists such as Dennis Oppenheim, Vito Acconci, Richard Long, Hamish Fulton, Sophie Calle, Michelangelo Pistoletto and Marina Abramović integrated walking and performance as a vital part of their art practice, revealing its multisensory nature and aesthetic simplicity. During the 1980s and 1990s, the concepts of psychogeography and flanerie were furthered by writers (i.e. Ian Sinclair, J.D. Ballard), filmmakers (i.e. Patrick Keiller, Chris Petit) and art collectives such as Stalker (Italy), whose “transurbance” [8] concept; a participatory performative walking; created a hybrid platform of elements from psychogeography, flanerie and ethnography. During the late 20th century and early 21st century, walking in the city has constituted a method for a number of contemporary artists (i.e. Francis Alÿs, Simon Pope, Christina Kubisch, Janet Cardiff, Christian Nold, Gordan Savicic, among others). Such artists have highlighted a newly emerging hybridity in the practice of walking, bringing elements from flanerie, psychogeography and performance together with new technologies (i.e. audiovisual, locative media), mapping and social methodologies. The work of these artists embodies what I propose as a hybrid flaneur/flaneuse of the 21st century city, a notion which I will reflect upon in detail in the later sections of this paper.

 

The Sensory Ratio of the Contemporary City

City forms a ‘living organism’ with a rich past, an intense present and a challenging future. Extending Serres’ metaphor of the skin as the “variety of our mingled senses,” [9] the city can be understood as a flourishing ‘urban skin’ – the meeting point of numerous stimuli in constant entanglement. Beginning in the late 19th century and finding its true form in the 20th century, the rationalization of public space, the gradual commodification of everyday life, and the technologically-mediated experience of the city has had a wide impact on the sensory and emotional experience of the walker – an effect that Simmel has described as the “intensification of nervous stimulation.” [10] The urban sensorium has been extended and augmented, revealing an almost geological stratification of its material and immaterial layers. Within the globalized and commodified city, sensory experience has not only been commodified but also characterized by overstimulation, leading to a possible “state of hyperaesthesia.” [11]

Historically, vision maintains a dominant and hegemonic role in the formation and sensing of the city. The dominance of the visual has caused a gradual decline and flattening in the consideration of the other senses, in particular the sonic, the olfactory and the haptic. It is not the focus of this paper to denigrate the visual, but to reconsider the significant ‘threads’ of these other senses, and how they are woven amongst the tangled operations of the walker.

The soundscape of the city has gradually changed through the domination of mechanical or electronic sounds of a repetitive and loud nature (i.e. traffic). This overabundance of sonic information produces emerging and fusing lo-fi soundscapes of ambient noise. [12] Shifting from the soundscape of the city to the perspective of the walker, the sonic experience has been further complicated through mobile devices that create a personalized soundtrack for the walker. As with the visual, the sonic and the olfactory have been a subject of commodification, design and branding within the architectural descendants of the Benjaminian Arcades: the shopping malls, central stations and airports. Apart from the increased ambient noise, a sonic landscape of pre-recorded announcements and background music (muzak) becomes part of the walker’ s experience. What is more, the spatial transformation of the city into a terrain of transitory “urban prosthetics” [13] (i.e. escalators, walkways and pre-designed paths) challenges the tactile relationship between the walker and the city. Even from this brief analysis, we can note that the sensory ratio of the contemporary city has been altered and extended in various ways, either enriching or constraining the walker’s experience. While urban stimuli have proliferated and fused material (i.e. spatial mobilities, public space) and immaterial levels (i.e. data clouds), the personalized – embodied – technologies of the walker have also impacted upon sensory experience. Mobile devices with sound and locative applications (i.e. GPS) have created a hybrid interplay between the actual and the virtual. Walkers find themselves part of a wider ‘urban symphony’ of stimuli and devices. Such pervasiveness and interconnectedness reveals a wider “tuning” [14] of practices, sensory encounters and technologies that contribute to a constantly changing urban sensorium. To use a geological metaphor, the urban sensorium is ascribed with a ‘becoming’ character – it has become a series of different ‘sensory tectonic plates’ under friction.

 

On the Sensory ‘Turn’ of the Contemporary Flaneur/Flaneuse: Becoming Social and Technological

In the 1970s Henri Lefebvre’ s thinking on public space as not only an abstract, concrete formation but also the result of lived and subjective experience [15] inspired a sustained spatial turn in the arts and humanities. His interest in the embodied, the live, and the subjective, brought an interdisciplinary revival of walking through the poetic and methodological lenses of flanerie and psychogeography. The latter has provided a fertile platform for the meeting of artists, sociologists, anthropologists, geographers and architects, amongst others. This interdisciplinarity, infused with social methods and various audiovisual and locative technologies, has made apparent an emerging hybridity. This hybrid element can be found in the array of walking practices that operate at the intersections of sociology, cultural geography and art. However, throughout this paper I will be referring to such walking practices mainly through artist’ s point of view, by proposing a personal consideration; that of “hybrid flaneur/flaneuse,” [16] a term that maintains the artist’s positionality.

In order to approach the sensory ‘turn’ in the practice of contemporary artists that have integrated urban walking as part of their works, I will reflect on changes that have occurred in sociality and in technology; within the arts and humanities framework. First, it seems that the contemporary artist-flaneur/flaneuse has become a more social creature. In particular, there has been a shift from solitary accounts of walking into accounts of shared experience. The social transformations of the globalized city have caused artists, social scientists and geographers to develop a growing sensitivity to methodological common ground. Methods have shifted from traditional sedentary approaches towards an interdisciplinary terrain encompassing “mobile” [17] and “live methods”, [18] bringing together the directness of walking with a sensory and social attentiveness for both places and people. While the traditional flaneur was an alienated urban persona capable of keeping an aesthetic distance, the contemporary flaneur (through examples I will analyze in the next section) has gravitated towards the perspective of inclusion and participation. This sociality embodies a growing attentiveness to the stories of fellow urban walkers, which has caused sensory, poetic and political implications. [19] Contemporary artists have integrated various novel devices into their spatial aesthetic practices. While the city has sprawled in physical and virtual domains, embodied audiovisual and GPS technologies have extended the senses of the flaneur, ‘weaving’ and ‘tuning’ them into the pulsating urban sensorium. The integration of technologies as ‘following extensions’ not only enriches the aesthetic qualities of the walking action but also captures the tacit temporalities and encounters between artist and co-walkers. Such technological extensions can be either of audiovisual nature (i.e. filming, sound recording), GIS / GPS data applications that record the continuous trace, or other embodied sensors that record bio-data (i.e. heart rate, number of steps) and other urban data in real time. While a number of walking-oriented artists have presented the poetics and politics of ambulatory practices through video, film and soundscape, [20] a new wave of contemporary practitioners have brought the poetic, (the) social and (the) technological into novel creative territory, combining “locative media,” [21] wearable sensors, and participatory practices. In bringing together the social and the technological, “senses are socialized,” [22] creating a constant openness between walker, co-walkers and city: a flowing experience that is extended and documented by technology. Yet, given the complexity of this newfound technological sociality, what happens to the attentiveness of the contemporary flaneur/flaneuse?

 

Ambulatory Attentiveness: The Sonic and the Tactile

While attentiveness can denote keeping an eye on a situation, this paper extends its meaning, seeking to include the sensorial awakeness that occurs at the meeting point of the sonic and tactile. Indeed, the auditory and the haptic become interrelated when lower sound frequencies “pass over to tactile vibrations.” [23] The exploration of sound and touch instigates a sensory initiative that the contemporary artist (the flaneur) can adopt through either social methods or technologies, which I have described as a sensory ‘turn’ in the previous section. For the contemporary flaneur/flaneuse to develop an ambulatory attentiveness is not only to “walk into” places of the city but also to “walk with” [24] others.

An example that illustrates such attentiveness on the move is Simon Pope’s Memory Marathon (2010). The artist and a large number of participants walked and talked for an entire day through East London areas that had been regenerated for the 2012 Olympic Games. This audiovisually documented participatory action merged together the sharing of steps, the ongoing talking-listening, and the sensory encounter into an oscillating ‘tuning’ between the artist and the co-walkers. The artist and the co-walkers initiate a “sharing of viewpoints and earpoints.” [25] Bringing the concept of flaneur into Pope’s action, the artist becomes the initiator of a shared action within the urban milieu. Walter Benjamin described the early flaneur as someone who “goes botanizing on the asphalt,” [26] entering thus into a metaphorical reading of the social constellations of the everyday. However, I would like to alter the meaning of such metaphor, bringing it into a 21st century urban context. Pope conducts a ‘botanizing’ on the personal memories and stories of the others, not only through a haptic shared process (walking), but also by making the stories and memories audible (through talking) in the street. Memory Marathon constitutes a work that is comprised by ‘walking ingredients’. In particular, the series of shared steps and words, moments of ground-looking and of eye-contact, moments of silence, accompanying hand gestures, surrounding stimuli and even the sound of breathing from both the artist and the co-walkers acts as a concoction of ingredients that the artist-flaneur brings together in performative and poetic ways. The walking action of Pope reveals him as an “ambulatory weaver” [27] – who ‘botanizes’ the shared stories, memories and sensory encounters. As a result, a sonic and haptic attentiveness on the move ‘weaves’ together the emerging geographies of the embodied and the subjective. Sonic and haptic implications are also apparent in Pope’s participatory work Charade (2005), where the artist sets a conceptual framework as a sensory meeting point for the social to occur, by inviting people to walk through a public space by narrating a memorized piece from a book, film or song. Charade activates the ears by producing a kind of temporal poetics, bringing the co-walkers into a condition of “becoming the text” [28] sonically and haptically.

Both Memory Marathon and Charade re-insert the power of the ear into the methodological approach of a contemporary flaneur/flaneuse, through either talking or performative actions based on sound. The reconsideration of walking situates the artist in the ‘urban partiture’, making him/her a co-producer who makes audible an evolving composition of stories, sounds and encounters. The latter indicates a wider ‘tuning’ of the artist with the social and spatial ‘vibrations’ of the city. McLuhan described the artist as “the antenna of the society,” [29] positioned to feel oncoming tensions and frictions. Here, this metaphor can be furthered, the 21st century flaneur can be seen as a ‘walking antenna’, conveying not only the active positionality of the artist but also the emerging digital attentiveness of his/her various integrated embodied technologies (micro-antennas).

 

Curating on Foot: Contemporary Flaneur/Flaneuse as ‘Orchestrator’

Walking constitutes both an action and a metaphor. It is a continuous spatial process with poetic, sensory, emotional and political implications.  Metaphors have the potential to unlock the poetics and sensory qualities of such concepts. They form cognitive bridges that are “pervasive […] in thought and action” [30] with strong imaginative potential. In the previous sections of analysis we have seen that contemporary artists have integrated walking as part of their art practices, forming emerging hybridities. The gradual ‘turns’ to sensory, social and technological levels have shown a wide shift in walking practice. In particular, from a distant receptor of the city rhythms, the contemporary flaneur/flaneuse has become an “urban curator” [31] – attentive to the urban strata – something that renders him/her not only an initiator of actions but also an ‘orchestrator’ of steps, humans, situations and data.

Extending the metaphor into the work of Francis Alÿs, The Modern Procession (2002), reveals similar qualities. It is a work that is audiovisually documented alongside a series of drawings and photographs. In The Modern Procession, Alÿs initiated a situation where a crowd of people and a Peruvian music band carrying palanquins with replicas of Picasso and Duchamp’s iconic works walked from MoMA’s collection through the streets of New York. The artist triggers a psychogeographic and Fluxus-oriented situation in the streets by bringing together the people, objects and music through walking. The activity becomes curation-in-action, an unrolling situation of ritualistic character that penetrates the everyday flow of the street. The liveness and ‘sensory emissions’ of Alÿs’s work contributes to the temporal sensory fabric of the streets, embodying the hybrid flaneur that goes ‘orchestrating’ a situation.

Departing from this example, in his participatory work Bio Mapping – Emotion Mapping (2004-), Christian Nold delves into the fabric of local communities by providing participants the conceptual and technological framework as an opportunity for them to walk in the city and continuously collecting data through specific embodied devices. The artist records both the physiological changes (GSR) and location (GPS) of the walkers, aiming to create personal emotional maps. Nold becomes attentive to his fellow-citizens, ‘orchestrating’ a series of walks and workshops, a ‘weaving’ together of the objective (technologies) and the subjective (personal stories). Nold becomes an ‘orchestrator’ on various levels; not only does he stage the people and their steps but he also conducts the interplay of technologies. This quality of ‘orchestrating’ brings together people and technologies and unfolds two propositions. Firstly, it demonstrates the hybrid ambulatory curating of the contemporary flaneur, with its further poetιc and political implications, including not only a metaphorical appropriation of the urban stimuli but also a power of the artist to open new ways for the co-citizens to interpret their experience within and interaction with the city.  Secondly, it re-emphasizes the aforementioned metaphor of contemporary flaneur as ‘walking antenna’, and shifts the identity of the co-walkers from participants to ‘enlivened antennas’, extending the artist’s body in space. In this process, Nold conducts a Benjaminian ‘botanization’ of collective emotion. He investigates the stratified urban experience with geological attention, entering stratum by stratum; from city to street, from community to individual body. In the case of Gordan Savicic and his walking performance Constraint City (2008-2010), the artist becomes an ‘orchestrator’ of the invisible electromagnetic data of the city. During his public performance, Savicic wears a metallic chest strap woven with Wi-Fi sensors, which reacts to highly dense areas of wireless signals in the city by marking scars on his body. Constraint City is another example of hybridity in walking practice – a bringing together  of flanerie, psychogeography and Fluxus happening. Savicic develops a technologically mediated attentiveness and his action renders him as a ‘walking antenna’, receiving signals from the invisible and ubiquitous data ocean, translating immaterial geographies into scars on his body. This orchestrated dialogue between data and body extends and shifts the meaning of curation-in-action. As Hans Ulrich Obrist has described a curator as someone who ‘brings different cultural spheres into contact’ [32] – similarly I could describe walking-related artists as ambulatory curators – creative junctions – who bring together the ephemeral, the material, the sensory and the emotional by creating and revealing new narratives and situations with existing “urban threads”.

The above examples illustrate the various ways that the metaphor of ‘orchestrator’ applies to a contemporary flaneur/flaneuse. It illustrates that something new is occurring in addition to Benjamin’s ‘botanizing’, Schafer’s ‘tuning’ and McLuhan’s ‘antenna’. I propose that the metaphor of ‘orchestrating’ incorporates and amplifies these previous metaphors embodying a performative constellation of shared walking, senses, psychogeographic situations and technologies. It demonstrates the gradual ‘turn’ of the flaneur toward sociality, technology and sensory attentiveness.

 

‘Orchestrating’ the Ears: Sound Practices of a Hybrid Flaneuse

The last section of this paper will examine the aesthetics and poetics of two sound-based walking works by Janet Cardiff and Christina Kubisch. Cardiff’s This Missing Voice: Case Study B (1999) illustrates a hybrid example of sonic flanerie in the city that finds focus in the immersion of the participant walker. Cardiff’s walking-based work challenges the principally male past of the flaneur, possibly showing a gender-based ‘turn’ as well. The intention of Cardiff to use walking and her voice as tools of storying brings forward an acknowledgement of a general gender difference in the utilization of the concept during the 19th and 20th centuries, when there was no equivalent for a female flaneuse aside from the notable examples of George Sand and Virginia Woolf, who had a wandering presence in the public spaces of the 19th  and early 20th  century city.

The artist’s words “I want you to walk with me” act as an invitation to the walker to partake in a shared experience. This Missing Voice: Case Study B takes place in the streets of East London, crossing the areas and cultural topographies of Liverpool Street, Whitechapel and Brick Lane. Her audio walk is revealed through the headphones given to participants; as they walk, the artist’s narration takes place. The walking and narration instigates a co-performativity between Cardiff’s voice and the walker: steps become “simultaneously real and imagined”. [33] The heightening of the walker’s senses occurs through active listening to Cardiff’s fragmentary voice. Although the wandering embedded in the work develops a psychogeographical attentiveness similar to Ian Sinclair’s walks and texts, it is also a solitary sonic dialogue with the city. The latter indicates the hybridity in Cardiff’s work, one that situates itself in-between the cultural traditions of flanerie and psychogeography. The convergence of steps, sounds, voices and street rhythm reveals a performative work that is comprised of multiple narratives and experiences. Cardiff does not only conduct a ‘weaving’ of fragmentary words with urban sounds – experienced by participants – but also seeks to achieve a kind of ‘tuning’ between her own and others’ sensory and emotional experiences. The utilization of binaural technology extends such experience into a three dimensional sonic situation. Cardiff is both absent and present, sharing the same walk with others, but through a different time framework. Overall, Cardiff presents a 50-minute audio walk by pre-‘orchestrating’ a sonic spatial narrative structure for others to explore. Her ‘orchestration’ of the ears constitutes a performative action for the walkers, whose steps and sensory encounters are interwoven not only with Cardiff’s voice, but also with the visual, sonic and olfactory traces of the streets. Their walking both re-activates the artist’s prior experiences and contributes new lived experiences. This pre-‘orchestration’ by Cardiff proffers a form of  experimental curation whose subject is both the street and the participants’ imagination – the past and present are made manifest through binaural listening and embodied walking.

The German artist Christina Kubisch also integrates embodied technologies in her poetic participatory walking-based works. In her 2003 work Electrical Walks, Kubisch utilizes custom-designed sensitive headphones to capture the electrical fields of the urban environment. Kubisch, either alone or with other co-walkers, approaches or touches the surfaces of the urban environment. From ATM machines, subways, and security systems to neon lights and antennas, the urban materiality becomes a vocabulary of sonic potential, heard over the headphones as an emergent soundscape. Kubisch’s Electrical Walks are analogous to both Benjamin’s ‘botanizing’ and McLuhan’s antenna; by walking, touching and listening to the urban environment, participants are able to collect and receive the hidden sonorous materiality of their surrounds. When preparing her works, Kubisch conducts personal or participatory ‘botanizings’ on the urban data of different cities: she  curates an index of distinctive soundscapes – a “particular kind of genius loci” [34] for each one. The streets of a city provide a platform for artist and participant to articulate various ‘tunings’ between themselves and their surrounding surfaces. Not only does Kubisch become an ‘orchestrator’ of the ears through haptic attentiveness, but she provides a technological mediation  through which others can sense the invisible and ubiquitous geographies of the everyday. Electrical Walks not only merges elements from flanerie and Fluxus, but also creates a novel hybridity, harnessing Debord’s dérive in combination with the haptic, to present an innovative sonic psychogeography of the invisible. Within the work Kubisch not only ‘orchestrates’ the streets and the walker, but also creates an ‘orchestration’ of subjects, technologies and frequencies, uncovering the sonic micro-geographies of the city.

 

Conclusions

While contemporary art practices in the city have focused on issues of public space, lived experience and participation, they have also brought focus to the sensory. This focus has shifted interest from visual representations of the urban experience to interdisciplinary and participatory practices with sonic and tactile emphases. This sensory ‘turn’ in the walking-orientated practices of contemporary artists has led to the adoption of new technologies and novel interdisciplinary methods. While the ebb and flow of the street still forms the active platform for these artists, it is now a platform where they are able to conduct new hybrid ‘botanizings’ upon the material and immaterial geographies of the city – geographies not only visual but invisible, materialities that, through technologies and haptic interactions, can now be heard, traversed and encountered.

Spatial practices based on the traditions of the flaneur, the psychogeographical and the performative have moved from distanced observation to a sharing collusion of sensory encounters. The aforementioned artistic practices demonstrate the literal and metaphorical sonic implications of utilizing sounding technologies and conversations while walking. The resultant socialized and technologically mediated attentiveness reveals a hybrid urban flaneur/flaneuse who performatively ‘orchestrates’ steps, co-walkers, technologies and sensory encounters. The contemporary hybrid flaneur/flaneuse as ‘orchestrator’ embodies a curatorial sensitivity on the move, an attentive listening to the urban pulse.

 

Author Biography 

Bill Psarras (Dr., b. 1985) is an artist, writer and musician. He is an adjunct lecturer at the Department of Audio & Visual Arts (Ionian University) where he also works as a postdoctoral researcher (IKY Award). He has a BA in Audiovisual Arts and Sciences (Ionian University), an MA in Digital Arts (UAL) and a Ph.D in Arts & Computational Technology from Goldsmiths University of London (AHRC Award). His doctoral research has focused on intermedia and interdisciplinary explorations of the emotional geographies of cities through walking as art, senses and embodied technologies; by proposing the concept of a hybrid flaneur. His art practice includes site-specific walking performances, audiovisual installations, video/digital art and poetry, exploring the poetics and politics of the urban experience. He has exhibited in more than 65 international festivals, group exhibitions and cultural institutions. His research has been published in international journals, conferences proceedings, workshops and symposia in the intersections of contemporary art, media arts and urban cultural studies. On 2014, he was invited as a keynote speaker at the University of Chichester for the Performing Place symposium. On 2017, he published his first poetry collection entitled ‘Tundra’ presenting 44 poems on the intersection of art-geography.

 

Notes and References 

[1] Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking (New York: Penguin Books, 2001), 3.

[2] Nancy Forgione, “Everyday life in motion: the art of walking in late-nineteenth-century Paris,” Art Bulletin 87, no. 4 (2005): 686.

[3] Charles Baudelaire, Baudelaire: Selected writings on art and artists, trans. Pierre Charvet (Cambridge: University of Cambridge: 1981; 1863), 403.

[4] Walter Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire: A lyric poet in the era of high capitalism, trans. Harry Zohn (London and New York: Verso, 1973), 55.

[5] Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson, “The Flaneur On and Off the Streets of Paris,” in The Flâneur, ed. K. Tester (London and New York: Routledge, 1994), 35.

[6] Francesco Careri, Walkscapes: Walking as an Aesthetic Practice (Barcelona: Gustavo Gili, 2002), 84.

[7] Guy Debord, “Theory of the Dérive,” in Internationale Situationniste 2 (1958) http://library.nothingness.org/articles/SI/en/display/314 (accessed February 15, 2015).

[8] Francesco Careri, Walkscapes: Walking as an Aesthetic Practice, 176-191.

[9] Michel Serres, The Five Senses: A Philosophy of Mingled Bodies, trans. Margaret Sankey and Peter Cowley (London and New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 1985; 2008), 3.

[10] George Simmel, “The metropolis and mental life,” trans Edward Shils, in The Blackwell City Reader 2nd ed., eds. Gary Bridge and Sophie Watson (Hichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 1903; 2010), 103-110

[11] David Howes, “Hyperaesthesia or the sensual logic of late capitalism,” in Empire of the Senses, ed. David Howes (Oxford: Berg, 2004), 288.

[12] Raymond Murray Schafer, The Tuning of the World (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977).

[13] Trevor Boddy, “Underground and Overhead: Building the Analogous City,” in Variations on a Theme Park, ed., Michael Sorkin (New York: Hill and Wang, 1992), 123-124.

[14] Richard Coyne, The Tuning of Place (London: The MIT Press, 2010).

[15] Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Nicholson-Smith (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991).

[16] Vasileios Psarras, “Emotive Terrains: Exploring the emotional geographies of city through walking as art, senses and embodied technologies.” PhD diss., Goldsmiths University of London, 2015.

[17] Mimi Sheller and Jon Urry, “The New Mobilities Paradigm,” Environment and Planning A 38, no. 2 (2006): 207-226.

[18] Les Back and Nigel Puwar, Live Methods (Oxford and New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).

[19] The flaneur was synonymous of a privileged solitary figure, an observer with aesthetic lenses whose engagement with the city was reduced on a passive hearing, away from an attentive listening. However, Williams’s suggestion shows that a potential revivification of flaneur passes through an openness to the co-walkers.  Adebayo Williams, “The Postcolonial Flaneur and Other Fellow Travelers: Conceits for a Narrative of Redemption,” Third World Quarterly 18, no. 5 (1997): 821.

[20] For example, I refer to the personal or shared walking-based artworks of Francis Alÿs (Magnetic Shoes, 1994; The Green Line, 2004, The Modern Procession, 2002), of Simon Pope (Memory Marathon, 2009; Charade, 2005) and Marina Abramović (Great Wall Walk, 1988) among others.

[21] Drew Hemment, “Locative Arts,” Leonardo 39, no. 4 (2006): 348-355.

[22] Elisabeth Hsu, “The senses and the social: An introduction,” Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology 73, no. 4 (2008): 437.

[23] Raymond Murray Schafer, The Tuning of the World, 11.

[24] Jo Lee and Tim Ingold, “Fieldwork on foot: Perceiving, routing and socializing,” in Locating the field: Space, place and context in anthropology, eds., Simon Michael Coleman and Peter Collins (Oxford: Berg, 2006), 67.

[25] Misha Myers, “Walk with me, talk with me: The art of conversive wayfinding,” Visual Studies 25, no. 1 (2010): 59.

[26] Walter Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire: A lyric poet in the era of high capitalism, 36.

[27] Vasileios Psarras, “Emotive Terrains: Exploring the emotional geographies of city through walking as art, senses and embodied technologies.”, 84.

[28] Barby Asante, “Simon Pope: Charade,” in Art of Negotiation, eds. David Butler, Vivienne Reiss, Faisal Abdu’ Allah and Barby Asante (Manchester: Cornerhouse Publications, 2007), 58.

[29] Marshall McLuhan, Understanding media: The extensions of man (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964), xi.

[30] George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1980), 3.

[31] Jekaterina Lavrinec, “From a ‘blind walker’ to an ‘urban curator’: Initiating ‘emotionally moving situations’ in public spaces,” LIMES: Borderland Studies 4, no. 1 (2011): 57.

[32] Hans Ulrich Obrist, Sharp Tongues, Loose Lips, Open Eyes, Ears to the Ground. Eds. April Lamm (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2014), 24.

[33] David Pinder, “Ghostly footsteps: Voices, memories and walks in the city,” Ecumene 8 (2001): 2.

[34] Eva Kekou and Matteo Marangoni, “A New Sense of City through Hearing and Sound.” (paper presented at Proceedings of the Amber Conference Data City, Istanbul, Turkey, November 6, 2010).