Assignment #1 (10%) – Due Wednesday, Oct. 8th

In his essay Theory of the Dérive (1958), Guy Debord defines “dérive” or “drifting”, as “a technique of transient passage through varied ambiances.”  Cities are designed structures where desire and movement are managed by advertisements, street directions, property lines, road signs, posters, fences, walls, trees, parks, benches, public art… etc. We move from point A to point B with blindfolds on, barely aware of how the places we move through make us feel, think, imagine, see .

The goal of this drift assignment is to help you break out of these routines of urban walking and to experience the city’s “varied ambiances” (Vancouver or Portland) in new and creative ways. Although we approach this assignment as an art practice, please execute it in the spirit of a “researcher.”  Don’t set out to “make art”, just record what you see based on certain strategies you define for your self. Please follow these steps.

1. Read Theory of the Dérive, The Street, and The Manifesto for a New Walking Culture before you begin the assignment. These texts will help you get in the spirit of psychogeographic walking.

2. Set aside three or four hours for your drift. You may conduct your drift with others, but the experience and its photographic/written record are your own. Take with you a digital camera, a notebook and pen (blank pages are best), a water bottle and something to eat. If you stop at a cafe or store for something you will have broken the drift by following a routine: matching your desire with shopping. You may enter stores only if it is prescribed in your strategy.

3. Pick a constraint strategy for your drift. The reason for this is to remove personal desire and choice patterns from your creative walking. Self-imposed rules are always productive in breaking routines of art-making. You want to surprise yourself with what you discover. Here are some constraint strategies you may use or you can come up with your own:

  • An “algorithmic walk” forces you to follow basic instructions that will decide which direction you take at every given opportunity. If a wall blocks your way, or you come to a dead end, either follow a direction you can go in (ie. backwards) or come up ahead of time with another algorithm for such a situation. Examples of algorithmic instructions are:  a) Second Left, First Right, b) Third Right, Second Left, Third Right, c) Zig zag: left, right, left, right
  • Roll dice to determine direction. For example: 1-2: left, 3-4: right, 5: reverse direction, 6: cross street.
  • Print out a map (use google maps) of your hometown. Mark 5-10 of your favorite spots. Overlay these markings onto a map of your drift city and walk to these different places.
  • Draw a simple picture on a map of your drift city. Walk the route made by the lines.
  • Pick a starting point and ending point and draw a straight line between them. Follow this straight line as rigidly as you can.

4. Go to your designated starting point, with your supplies (no skateboards please!) and begin walking. As you drift, keep an open mind. Listen to sounds, be aware of scents. Look for objects on the sidewalk, left around trash cans. Read signs, hand-written notes, posters, newspaper headlines, license plates. Pay attention to flora and fauna, other people. What are they doing? Ask questions to yourself about what you see.

5. When you come to a place that makes you feel differently, either positively or negatively  – stop. Look around and start to take pictures with your camera: of the ground, the sky, the buildings, the street, people walking by. Whatever is of interest. Document the place as best you can and then sit somewhere and take notes. First, give the location a name (write down street names) as you will need to find it later on a map. Write briefly about why the place makes you feel a certain way? This might be a list of emotions, memories, even possible stories that are evoked in you imagination. Don’t worry about being boring! Our routine behaviors and thought patterns always edit out the boring stuff.

6. Continue walking until you have documented between 5-10 places on your designated route.

7. With a google account you can use Google Maps to post a map of your walk. In My Maps find the location of your walk and place pushpins at your various stopping points. Then get the html code to post on your site. For help, go to the Google Maps User Guide

7. Make a series of blog posts about your walk.  Begin the first post with a map, a description of your drift strategy and a reflection of the experience as a whole. Then create a blog post with photos and some text for each stop of your walk. This should be at least five separate posts, with a heading that names your drift and the number of the stop. For example: Vancouver Drift, stop #1. There is no success or failure in this. Just be objective about your subjective experience. The text part of each post should be taken from your notes, but include anecdotes or whatever else was going on at the time if you want.

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