The term psycho-geography has emerged as my chief methodology for my critical research project – at this stage. Thinking and responses do move on and risk taking and change is important to my development.
Put simply Psycho-geography seeks to investigate emotional responses to historical and geographical sites focusing on particular ‘hotspots’ . In my opinion Millbank Prison and the Royal Army Medical Corps military hospital (which is now our much loved and familiar home) Chelsea, has long been the focus and site of emotional turmoil. Psycho-geographically this site is emotionally charged and is a key turning point or ‘plaque tournante’ for me.
One definition of the characteristics of psycho-geography involves ‘playfulness’ and ‘drifting’ as exemplified by the ‘flaneur’ as described by Charles Baudillaire’s The Painter of Modern Life. The more I explore the concept of psycho-geography, and I try to understand this elusive concept, I realise it is all things to all people. The concept certainly has drifted from its original inception in Paris in the 1950s. It seems to have developed from the avant-garde’s Letterist movement of which Guy Debord was central and progressed into the Situationists in whom Debord was also central figure. His definition was “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.” It seems to me that Debord excels in his precision.
Other notable psych-geographers of recent times include writers Peter Ackroyd and Iain Sinclair whose prolific writings on London have a psycho-geographic basis. Will Self has popularised the notion of his regular psycho-geographic wanderings in his Sunday newspaper column and his trails have ‘drifted’ the impact of meaning. Self’s interpretation is imprecise contrasted with Debord’s precision of technique.
I think I will settle somewhere in the middle.
Annabel Ludovici Gray