The thesis of Olya Troitskaya “Virtual walking” studies a gesture of strolling in physical and cyberspace.
It looks into the history of a “deliberate walk”, starting from the concept of the flâneur developed by Charles Baudlaire, its degradation by capitalism into the figure of the shopper, its later radical political update coming with the concept of the “dérive”, its development through a notion of “Psychogeography” with Guy Debord and Situationist International and its popularity later in 1990s in artistic and academic circles, building up psychogeographical praxis in various ways.
Further the thesis draws a parallel between these historical processes happening in the real space to the ones taking place in the cyberspace.
With the development of capitalism flânerie becomes increasingly restricted. Is it possible that Cyberspace, that can be looked at as an update of a personal, bodily and architectural space, would become a more popular place for flânerie?
If in the 1990s “cyberflânerie” is associated with a free “strolling through information space, taking in the virtual architecture and remaining anonymous”(1), then in 2000s it doesn’t seemed such an intriguing activity as in the early days of the Web.
The processes happening to the internet in 2000s can be considered similar to ones happening in 19th century Paris, lead to the change of its original, playful identity.
Various artistic practices are being developed around a cyber stroll. Will they react to the changes happening to the figure of cyberflâneur and challenge its appropriation by capitalism, similar to Debor’s challenging capitalism’s hold over the city? (x) http://www.ceramicstoday.com/articles/051998.htm, last accessed: 06.09.2013
What is the future of the cyberflâneur? Is it possible to learn from Situationist’s example? Where to look for the “dérive” in cyberspace?
text by Olya Troitskaya [graduate student department of Graphic Design 2013] : more www.olyatroitskaya.com
In my previous post I talked about “City Signs and Lights”, about the design of a modern city landscape, attracting customers. City signs are in an ongoing competition for attention. In this post I want to focus on the interaction between the consumer (the flaneur) and the environment. I would like to shift between two cases: the architecture of The Strip in Las Vegas and the passages in Paris, in the first half of the 20th century.
The passage is a covered shopping gallery. The culture philosopher Walter Benjamin wrote about early consumer culture in Paris in his text “Passagen” (1930). He describes the citizen as a flaneur, not as someone who is exposing him/herself, but someone who is exposed to the attractive lights in the shopping gallery. The flaneur is a person who walks through the city without a specific goal. He/She gets into an ecstacy, going from one attraction to the other. The city unrolls as a landscape to the eye of the flaneur, but at the same time, locks him in. Benjamin calls this new city environment a “Fantasmagory”, the city becomes a dreamworld where different rules apply than in reality.
” If there is one place where colours are allowed to clash, it would be the Passage; a red-green comb is hardly noticed here ”
(W. Benjamin, Passagen, 1930)
I believe that Las Vegas is a great example of a modern day Fantasmagory. The city is almost entirely made out of neon signs. After the second world war, Las Vegas was growing extraordinarily fast. The consequence was a speed-up of competition along the Strip (the central road through Vegas). The actual buildings are all more or less the same: low, but a large ground level surface. This has to do with the climate and economical reasons. The outside of the building needs to stand out, both during the day and night. The result is a total mash-up of different styles, quotes, hightened symbolism, eclecticism, all in neon lights.
In the end, the building itself becomes a sign.
W. Benjamin, Passagen, 1930
R. Venturi, Learning from Las vegas, 1970
Cocteau Twins, Heaven or Las Vegas, 1990
cat. no. 700.6-benj2
I picked the book City Signs and Lights (S. Carr (ed.), Boston, MIT Press 1973) from the Rietveld library. The title immediately brought up associations with Walter Benjamin´s concept of the flaneur, the prototype of the bourgeois consumerist as the socio-cultural product of the earliest department stores in Paris established around 1900. Parallel to this idea is, I believe, the Society of the Spectacle (Debord). The power to attract customers with light commercials like lamps attract bugs, by accepting the existence of Desire within the subject (Deleuze), creates a competition in the city landscape, that alters the landscape into a continuous feed of visual stimuli. This competition for attention in the urban environment leads in its turn to a new set of rules or aestethics for such commercials. This is probably the design part of the fascination: the competition within the city landscape for attention of potential customers that sets the parameters for an aesthetics of a denotation system that functions almost as a parasite on the urban environment.
(The author of City Signs and Lights doesn´t seem to mention a historical context)
The second association I had when I first saw the book, was Wong Kar-Wai´s Happy Together (1998) in which shots of city signs and lights are metaphorical for emptiness and alienation between the two main characters and their environment.
The book in itself does not provide extended written articles, but the title and images provoked associations and ideas about an exhaustive list of topics on the conditions of modern western society, semiotics in general, and the meaning of neon as a material or medium in particular.
cat. nr: 754.5-carr-1