There are various intersections between Altermodernism and psychogeography and various ways in which it inspired and contextualises my practice.
Altermodernism essentially re-energised my practice, opening my eyes to many possibilities. The concepts of Heterochronia, Energy, Travel and Archives were inspirational.
Heterochronia is the co-presence of different time periods in everyday life, which can help us understand contemporary times and what we’re contemporary of. It’s very similar to the psychogeography of Mark Rainey who views history as all jumbled up, a view which I embraced. Likewise it echoes Jonathan Jones in his Guardian review of the Altermodern Tate Triennial: that we live in a science-fiction age but still with the old clutter of before.
Travel describes artists searching for the unseen or unknown in their own environment or further afield, documenting their journey and discoveries, creating art from them. I can see parallels here with Iain Sinclair, which adds a psychogeographic dimension to this concept.
This, for my practice, tied in with the concept of Energy – the potential for art to be created out of the whole continuum of art practice, not simply working towards a ‘final piece’. It’s influenced by contemporary concerns over sustainability, being more resourceful with art practice. One particular artist who inspired my MLSE projection piece was Loris Gréaud with Where Tremors Forever, where he recorded his brain as he thought about plans for an upcoming exhibition.
With Archives the past is used as part of an understanding of the present. It’s not an archive in the traditional sense, but the chaining together of similar things from different historical periods. Again, this resembles the writings of Mark Rainey.
These concepts have obvious resonance with my work. The value of the past and the realisation that time doesn’t have to be viewed as linear, which enabled me to adopt a pick-and-mix strategy to approaching and applying psychogeographic tradition to my own work and philosophy, and the mixing of imagery relating to different periods of time.
Bourriaud’s lecture The Problematic of Time in Contemporary Art was a significant inspiration for utilising archaeology in my practice, which was bolstered by the Journey-Form: Expeditions and Parades chapter of The Radicant (see below). Bourriaud describes Modernist art as refusing to dig into the canvas, with focus being on the surface, flatness and planes, but recently the proliferation of historical documents in art has resulted in the emergence of the figure of the archaeologist. Archaeologists use plans to locate themselves within space and time – both archaeology and history are used to understand the present. One artistic example is Robert Smithson’s Hotel Palenque in which he analyses the hotel, learning about its history and location, focusing on the traceability of the present. Parallels between archaeology and my practice were drawn to articulate my investigation into Huddersfield.
The Journey-Form is a complex subject in its own right, which Bourriaud breaks down into various chapters in The Radicant: Expeditions and Parades, Topology and Temporal Bifurcations.
In Expeditions and Parades Bourriaud notes contemporary artists borrow various aspects of the Journey-Form: it’s forms, iconography and methods. The reason the Journey-Form is commonly used today is because of globalisation: the democratisation of tourism, widespread commuting and the proliferation of screens in everyday life, particularly the Internet and subsequent web surfing, which prompted me to explore cyberflânerie.
Expeditions involve a motive (knowledge), an imaginary setting (the history of exploration linked to the present) and a structure (collections – samples along a path like Gelitin’s Klumpatsch (The Ride) or Francis Alÿs’ journeys through Mexico in 1991).
In relation to my practice, several aspects of the Journey-Form can be seen: forms (the concept of cyberflânerie and mapping it, and Altermodern Energisation of the journey of my practice), iconography (the jungle of cyberspace, exploration of the terra incognita or uncharted territory of the little known reality of Huddersfield’s industry), and its methods (cyberflâneur and psychogeographer as an explorer, and archaeology).
My expedition involves the motive of uncovering the truth of Huddersfield’s industry, the imaginary setting is my place within psychogeographic tradition and archaeology updated for contemporary times, and a structure which is artworks that act as collections of findings and samples.
One artist who uses the Journey-Form is Pierre Huyghe in A Journey That Wasn’t. Based on the rumour of an Antarctic albino penguin, Huyghe and his team investigate. The journey becomes art itself, a Journey-Form.
Similarly, my practice was based on MLSE footage shown in a lecture. The prospect of Huddersfield’s industry being no more was enough to conduct an investigation with forms, including Journey-Forms, being born out of the expedition.
In the chapter Topology the Journey-form is linked to the iconography of displacement, since journeys are non-static. Global displacement is a reality, linked to multiplication via the Internet and its myriad of sites. Browsing the Internet is an everyday example of displacement and multiplication is experienced all the time.
Flânerie and cyberflânerie are defined by their displacement so it’s very much relevant to today. With my practice displacement is referenced and induced via QR Codes intended for the viewer to access various websites by scanning them.
There is also a form of alternative mapping in contemporary art, found in Franz Ackermann’s paintings. This alternative mapping, like the contemporary equivalent of landscape painting, focuses on the experience of space, hence it’s close link to psychogeography. Similarly, my colour specimens depict not just the appearance of industrial sites, but their psychogeography, the products they manufacture and their significance regarding local identity.
In Temporal Bifurcations Bourriaud addresses the relevance of the past. Nowadays nothing disappears and everything is archived. Space and time have now merged and exchanged properties. One example is tourism, which involves a temporary change of scenery via geographic distance. Just like Berlin’s appeal being based on historical divisions of space and society, Huddersfield’s appeal might be the presence of Victorian Britain – this was a defining factor of my investigation (the relationship Huddersfield’s current industry has to its past). This merging of space and time can also be seen in the writings of Mark Rainey. Likewise, Bourriaud’s describes Winifred G Sebald’s stories as illustrations of collective memory and past events haunting and shaping the present and spaces. Travel helps us to access the past via historic buildings, museums, monuments, hotel rooms and conversations, which can be seen in Robert Smithson’s Hotel Palenque and Iain Sinclair’s books. In Merlin Coverley’s Psychogeography he profiles Sinclair as part urban wanderer, local historian, avant-garde activist and political debater. Sinclair has aspects in common with the Surrealist drifts of Breton and Aragon, who unearth hidden aspects of cities as they drift and sample ambiences, but not Situationist theory.
Contemporary artists interact with history through time travel, using nomadic forms – one such form, in my case, is cyberflânerie. As a result archaeology plays an important role in contemporary art practice, due to its mixing of time and space.
In the chapter Urban Wandering Bourriaud notes the imagery of urban is omnipresent in contemporary art. Just as Impressionists were fascinated by the ‘becoming world’ of industrialisation, so artists are fascinated by the ‘becoming world’ of post-industrial city life. Likewise, I explore the presence of cyberflânerie, facilitated by the ‘becoming world’ of the Internet as part of everyday life and the ‘becoming world’ of a new phase of British manufacturing based on luxury goods.
Artistic fascinations with the ‘becoming world’ are tied to modernity and thus precariousness, as modernity constantly transforms our world. Baudelaire called these figures artiste mutants – flâneur artists who mutate to reflect the ever-changing world we inhabit.
Thus contemporary fascination of the ‘becoming world’ is linked to modernity and precariousness. These artists are what Baudelaire called the artiste mutant. These artists mutate to reflect the ever-changing nature of modernity and are the flâneurs of the art world, which makes me an artiste mutant. Contextual justification for the use of flânerie comes from artists such as Gabriel Orozco in Yielding Stone, John Miller in Middle of the Day and Kendell Geers in Suburbia, who depict the status of flânerie in the 21st century.
At the end of Exploration Through Practice I felt there was more mileage in the subjects I had explored but I was unsure as to how to explore it further. Finding a route map through Altermodernism and psychogeography nourished a continuum of practice throughout the Final Major Project, providing inspiration, contextualising and clarifying areas I had touched upon.