Apr 6, 2008

Spring Exposure: Walking Enunciates the City

"Men travel in manifold paths: whoso traces and compares these, will find strange Figures come to light; Figures which seem as if they belonged to that great Cipher-writing which one meets with everywhere..." ~Novalis (Die Lehrlinge zu Sais)

Michel de Certeau, in ‘Walking in the city’ from The Practice of Everyday Life, describes the act of urban walking (or cycling) as an articulation of the language of the city. It is how we understand the boundaries and particulars of our urban consciousness, community, and self. The body as text vocalizes the unseen textures of urban interaction.

It is once again the time for exploration and exposure, leaving our winter havens for the unpredictable city streets. Walking, I get pulled into the minutiae, jolted into a new awareness of the urban landscape and my body. Slowly traversing the streets of Brooklyn late on a spring night, I know exactly where I am, it's locative. Stepping into the awakened verdure after a rough winter, I fall in love again with the city.

The physics of crowds, self-organization phenomena and the effects of this on urban ecology are a fascinating read in the Dynamics of Crowd Disasters: an Empirical Study.

Those with asperger's or a fondness for structured repetition should try algorithmic or generative walking, pioneered by the Dutch art collective Social Fiction. Just imagine where you might end up.

Check out Conflux (happening September 11-14 this year), an event that uses art and technology to explore urban public space. Projects often highlight the physical consciousness of cities and use walking, mapping and psychogeography to ask "who are we?"/"where are we?"

Go there, get lost, the city is there for you to wield.

Cyclists: head over to Grand Army Plaza on April 12th (11:00-3:00), where the DOT will distribute free NYC bike helmets and volunteers will offer tune-ups (bike not body).

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