psychocartographies :  of minds and maps
published in jè-st': catalogue for the festival of intervention and performance art 2011


 psychocartographies :  of minds and maps

of plans and maps 

The city on paper is not the city in flesh.  Urban plans and official maps are almost always subversively enhanced by unofficial collective geographies, birthed from the movements of denizens creating new and mostly-undocumented cartographies of the lived-in city. On paper and in flesh, the lived-in city is basically a collection of points, lines, and planes.


The urban plans on paper contain only the official striations: roads, streets, and walkways. Meanwhile, the actual lived-in mind-map of a city includes all of the unofficial interventions in these spaces, such as desire lines and paths created autonomously by the actual users of these smooth spaces. These desire lines, however, cannot be seen as completely anarchistic nor autonomous in their deviance from the official city, because their existence indicates collective use, and draws followers, who use and reuse these established paths, which over time become unofficially-official, despite their non-inclusion in the official plans and maps.


of desires and dérives


The idea of these unofficial and unsanctioned routes through a city, calls to mind the situationist dérives, however, the desire line and the dérive, although related, are far from synonymous, as each possesses a conflicting approach in its relationship to object-destination-points. In contrast with the dérive, the desire lines often provide more direct paths (goal-oriented short cuts) to the objects of desire than the official routes. Meanwhile the dérive, is the complete rejection of an object-destination-point altogether, as it is essentially a playful reconstruction of space through unguided exploration in search of psychogeographic experiences that will in turn excite desires that will in their own turn subvert spectacles.


the desire line vs the dérive ---- or ----  desitination vs. non-destination


Despite the juxtaposition of their object-relationships, the desire line and the dérive simultaneously hold a few key similarities in their construction of space, as each one rejects the official plan of the city. While the dérive may use and incorporate existing official routes, it is not restricted to these and it may also use desire paths, or it may deviate entirely from both the official and the unofficially-official striations.  The desire line, on the other hand, is actually in conflict with the dérive because it is the evidence of repeated actions that have routinized an actual path.  As such, rather than being an autonomous act, the desire line becomes evidence of an alternative, underground form of collective urban planning.


Another connective tissue between the two is that neither the desire line nor the dérive possess an object-destination.  While the desire line has an object-destination in its sites as a goal, the dérive purposefully chooses to not aim for a tangible object-destination (although it may well end up at one in the end).


of minds and maps : following three collectives through the city


I am curious about the collective interventions and the interventions of collectives and how they may create more direct object-oriented routes, or whether they may drift destinationless on psychogeographic expeditions.  Most of all, I am interested in the intangible implications of the following three groups, as they drifted from map to mind through matter as they sliced striations into the smooth fabric of routinized daily life in the lived-in city.



Collective Pique-nique embarked upon metaphorical dérive that laid the groundwork for desire lines to striate the spaces of interpersonal relationships to take the viewers and passersby straight to the heart of intimacy and desire.


Desirable line to intimacy --->

Janick Rousseau et Max-Antoine Proulx


Jannick Rousseau and Max Antoine Proulx striated the spaces of sexuality, romance, and coupledom in two separate performances, both of which forged linear-paths between the points of socially acceptable expressions of coupledom and metaphorical manifestations of inner longing. 


Of Roses and Milk

In their first performance, Max-Antoine offers Janick a rose – a widely acceptable and official gesture or route to intimacy.  She accepts the rose-gesture-route, and places the head in her mouth  -- short cut to the sexual object of desire? or drifting through the realm of intimate geographies?  She bites off the head and spits the rose in his face. They spit chewed up rose petals mixed with spit and wine and milk on one another’s faces and shirts.  Eventually, he pulls her shirt over her face, and she spits through the white fabric, creating a faceless figure with bloodlike liquid oozing from the white surface where her mouth would be.  He rips the tablecloth from the table, sending wine and roses in the air, and taunts her with the white sheet like a matador. This tension between individuality and autonomy within a couple alludes to the everyday sort of psychological violence that is intimately linked with vulnerability and desire with the knowledge that forgiveness and acceptance is not only possible but probable.


Of Popcorn, Molasses, and Football

Their second performance was an unofficial and unadvertised intervention in the midst of a football celebration.  A crowd of football fans gathered as the couple poured and painted molasses on one another then covered each other in popcorn.  One man in particular took photo after photo on his cell phone and started calling friends to tell them what he was witnessing.  Not realizing I was connected with the festival, he came over to me exclaiming:


“Do you see that?! I mean, if she wasn’t pregnant, or was one of the cheerleaders, it would be one thing: like mud wrestling or something, and I would get it.  But she’s totally pregnant, and something is definitely going on there between them, but I don’t know what!”  - (paraphrased from a random football fan)


In this context of football fans and cheerleaders, he was expecting a short-cut to sexual desire, but what he got instead was a pregnant couple with molasses and popcorn; what was he to do with this? Surely this spectator inadvertently embarked upon a psychological dérive of his own, that continued long after the festivities had ended.


Desiring a path for belonging ---> of mimes and men

Thierry Marceau  - L’Appel de la mer (une histoire de famille no. 4)


Thierry Marceau, in the guise of a mime, cut a desire path for belonging as he too performed unannounced and unsanctioned in the midst of the football festivities. Dressed as a mime and surrounded by a crowd of football fans he stands out as a lone individual in the face of a crowd, trying to fit in.  He acts out for attention (as if affection-acceptance is his object-destination-point), playing games with the vendors and members of the public.  Eventually he sits down at a table to eat a plastic lobster – an impossibility as the object of desire has been substituted with a fake.  He stands on the chair – a sad sack for all to see.  Eating alone, standing alone, surrounded by a crowd.  His object of desire is clear:  acceptance and belonging.  His desire path is there – traveled though not yet fully traversed.


Desire for security ---> of rafts and vests

Jason Arsenault - Man Overboard / Un homme à la mer,


Jason Arsenault‘s project highlighted the paths we take in our heads to protect ourselves from imagined threats and dangers: be it through self-censoring, or life insurance policies.  In the actual lived experience of the city, his projects were not highlighted nor advertised nor on any beaten path or official map; one would almost have to be on an actual dérive to come across his safety devices.  In these isolated situations, there is a near-impossibility of physical danger as well as a near-impossibility of rescue.  What is the risk?  Where is the help?  And yet, if the risk does arise when we are isolated – those most subtle and sublime of crises that ironically often incur the most lasting damage – where do we find rescue, refuge, and support?  He offered up near-impossible object-destination-points that could only be found on potential dérives and even then only if we happen to happen to happen to pass by could we see the possibility of a possibility of a possible rescue in the case of a potential possible risk.  And even then, the life jackets were deflated and useless.  There is no rescue and the object of desire in not an object nor desirable at all.


Faux desire path to wealth -à  of parks and parking lots

TBA Collective – Victoria Parking Lot


In the course of their intervention, the TBA collective plotted a faux desire path to wealth and a short cut to protest, through mimicked mechanisms of capitalist strategies, as they staged a plan to pave Victoria Park and put up a parking lot.  A few weeks prior to this intervention, a landlord in the city had cut down several old trees on his property (with the intent of making a parking lot) this had immediately incited public protests to save the trees and green spaces within the city. In the making of this project, the TBA collective capitalized on that activist momentum and parked a van in the middle of a municipal green space, and filled the van with televisions playing a commercial for the new (fictitious) parking lot. They also posted the commercial online and created a facebook page which incited a lot of protest and confusion from the public, as some individuals took the proposed parking lot plans as serious, and were incited to protest in outrage, while others tentatively asked if this was a hoax.  From the faux desire path to wealth, the public was lead along an actual path to protest, heightened by pre-existing tensions from the events the weeks prior.


Tension between the desire and the path -à  of minds and maps

Collectif Taupe - Denis is having a bad day


Collective Taupe took a dérive through the smooth spaces that surround both the desire and the line:  the external prescribed path vs the internal desire for meaning.  On two separate occasions, they hired an actor to walk around the downtown area, followed by second person holding a large dark cloud over the actor’s head. In this intervention, the prescribed path gives way to internal desire for meaning, which in turn, seems to give way to suffering (manifested in the dark cloud), thus implying that he desires something more than the prescribed path or the implied end object-destination-point of said path.  But in the absence of the desire-object is desire itself and this desire-lack-longing brings suffering. Perhaps Denis is not following a path toward a goal or object-destination-point at all, but instead following a path for the path’s sake; not quite on the exploratory dérive in the situationist sense, but not heading toward a goal either.  As such, he seems to be questioning the path itself, and in so doing, the path loses the point A and the point B that once held it taught:  like a line or a rope, the desire line goes slack without destination-points.  It is in this intervention that we discover the potential for meaning in the smooth spaces between desire and dérive, as Denis walks, stands, and sits in the smooth spaces surrounded by the infinite possibilities of desire within a closed system.


of points lines and planes


The city on paper may appear on its printed and fibrous surface to be a closed system – the roads are the roads are the roads and naught shall stray from these.  Yet, so many of us, like Denis, trudge along these official lines with a dark cloud over our head, longing for either something more than the expected-mapped object-destination-point, or perhaps for something even for more than the path itself.  With desire lines as the first step in opening up this closed system, we can then begin to imagine other possibilities beyond the paths and to embark upon a dérive which may or may not result in the discovery of spaces that excite desire and thus the potential discovery of infinite possibilities.