This book represents the thoughts and experiences of someone working in the field of urban walking and psychogeography. It attempts to provide a moment-in-time representation of urban aesthetics, while providing analyses and critiques of urban space. The book includes 20 full-colour images.
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By Ian Long
Feb 19, 2013
It should be said that this book is a beautiful object. Its cover photo shows a variety of human structures being slowly, gorgeously devoured by the foliage of a multi-layered landscape which runs down to a mirror-like pond, where the bare struts of a partially collapsed roof are reflected. It looks like a still from Tarkovsky’s Stalker; itself a talisman for all self-respecting urban explorers. Whatever Richardson’s other interests, it’s clear that this psychogeographer has some sense of style. The look of things, their aesthetic quality, matters to her. And this keys directly into the crux of her work. Inspect the cover photograph for a while, and certain questions may arise. What’s it like inside that derelict shed? Is there any purpose to the brick wall which seems to have been built directly behind another, older one? And is there a way through the bushes to reach the interesting red-brick building at the top of the hill? Questions concerning the routes we’re allowed to follow... More > and the spaces we’re permitted to occupy within the landscape pervade Richardson’s book. She’s aware that her callus-inducing walks take place on streets which are well and truly chartered. The encroachment of private interests on public spaces are her central preoccupation. I laughed aloud several times while reading this book, but I recognised the gently defiant edge to the humour, an example of which is Richardson's account of the new academic discipline – schizocartography – she has created. As well as a descriptive label for her practice, it’s also an experiment in the mechanics of self-branding, allowing her to observe from within the accretion of custom, meaning and exploitation around a concept, and thus to expose and demystify it. From the hilarious defamiliarised visit to a shopping mall which becomes a descent into psychedelic retail hell to a practical checklist on leading psychogeographical rambles (useful to teachers from primary school to university level), a cool, lucid but engaged curiosity runs through the book. And Richardson’s assessments of her fellow practitioners are unstintingly generous and positive. Reading Concrete, Crows and Calluses one feels in the company of a lively and venturesome spirit which has found in psychogeography a creative space where various freedoms, both intellectual and physical, can be mapped out – a zone which Richardson is working enthusiastically to enlarge, and in which she invites all those of like mind to join her.< Less
If you're interested in writings on walking, place, architecture and urban planning, this collection makes for an excellent primer. Tina Richardson addresss at many of the issues that face psychogeographers.... accusations of bandwagoning, threats of assimilation by mainstream ideologies and that old chestnut: getting kicked off private property or manhandled by security. What I like most about this short collection is that it's super-charged my reading list. A good springboard for further investigations.
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