Growing (up) psychogeography

Growing (up) psychogeography – maps and links

Our practices reveal ourselves: now the maps that I drew as a child make sense to me. It

was the ‘early psychogeographer’ in me!  I mean some kind of disposition that not only drew me to maps, but that drew me to draw maps! To make maps on my own, to invent places!

I thought it was a weird practice even as a child. My brother did it as well but he was older and he was a boy, and I thought ‘which other girl would do something that sounds as boring as drawing maps…’ It usually went like that: I made an outline of an island, and on the island I would draw one or two or maybe three little towns, or villages. The island-outlines came from our standard holidays as children on the islands off the Frisian coast in Germany: so it had their shape as a model, blueprint, prototype. I’ll show photos of my childhood maps once I can find them!

Map, shape, cognition, geometry

On being curious whether drawing maps as a child is an awkward activity – or whether it is normal somehow, I found out that the activity enhances spatial awareness! Drawing, i.e. making maps has a positive effect on enhancing lateral thinking, so there’s something cognitive going on in the process! This explains perhaps my thought process, and also why, a few years later at school, I had a strong interest in geometry. In some respects I found maths really boring, but I took to geometry like a duck to water. All those shapes with all those names!

In view of this, psychogeography, which I came across a very long time later than maps, unsurprisingly turned out to be the perfect subject-discovery for me – and am ‘embedded one’ at that, as I sort of automatically wrote myself into it. My practices, my interests, now were not awkward anymore, or the other way round, being awkward was a good thing.

When I say I wrote myself into psychogeography, I mean the sort of poetry and prose that I write. My first poetry award, in 2008, was by Urban Design, and now, just like with the maps before, it makes sense why such an organisation would give me an award: it was my place-writing, the walking plus the wording in the literature. For example my trip to the enticingly named peninsula Hoo!:, or, another example some years earlier, my poetry-contribution to a booklet on the river Brent (to be excavated…)

My second poetry award was a poem written in 2013 (though sent in this year), and again it’s a place-poem (the third award was on Sappho in Letchworth Garden City, tbs). Here it is:

Then came the 4th World Congress in Psychogeography, which is documented in Tim Waters’ excellent blog here, and has links to my two blog posts about it as well: (see under fourth picture).

Then I was thrilled that top psychogeographer Tina Richardson invited me to write a guest post on her excellent blog. I decided to write a piece where I kind of introduce myself, hence ‘a psychogeography of where I grew up (how forms and shapes have formed and shaped me):

And from there developed a ‘mining project’ which I’ll write more about, and also the idea of making psychogeographs! I wanted to honour the ‘graph’ part of geography, and then take it literally, which reveals its closeness to ‘mapping’, once again, and so comes back to itself. My second psychogeograph is the title picture of this post, and my first one is here below.

The dérive and questions of structure

There’s another big thing in psychogeography, apart from maps, and that is the dérive! This is another perfect practice for me! Having a dislike for some forms of repetition and structures, I found that the dérive also functions as stress relief for me. I have to do it frequently, in order to escape, or to side-line, the set structures which I am supposed to follow, and which do not allow enough of my own expression. Whenever I have the opportunity to do my own – literally! – derivations from the prescribed pathways, I feel I am breathing, flowing, in my element! So for me the dérive is the perfect answer to my needs.

It’s not that I seek to ‘deconstruct’ all structures – there are different types: structures that are hierarchies have to be abolished, in favour of equality – whereas with other types of structures I simply want to be able to make my own ones, to add to the existing ones and therefore enhance possibilities, choices and ideas.

In daily life: dots and lines

My daily life is quite dérive-friendly: I have to work at a different venue almost every day, and my weekly and monthly structures are also usually entirely different from one another. There is little repetition, which I like.

Yet I always seek to extend this freedom to the max! It seems I have a need to constantly find unknown and unexpected things, places, views, ideas – and different ways of connecting places: places being dots and lines the connections I make between them!

If I don’t do have enough opportunity to have to reach different places, or the same places in a different order, I feel either bored or a bit strangled/stressed. Walking down a road and observing thrills me, such as looking at the arrangement of autumn leaves on road, pavement or yellow line, seeing signs, objects, notices – indeed: to notice! Finding flowers growing through gaps in the pavement, looking at cloud-formations in the sky, and the ever-changing light- and shadow patterns that sunshine produces. So there are things to see on the ground, and things to see in the sky!

More is on the way, so this is growing it further and further!















6 thoughts on “Growing (up) psychogeography

  1. andhowe

    Really enjoying your posts Ursula! “hierarchies have to be abolished, in favour of equality..” hear hear! It was a shame we didn’t get chance to talk longer at the Psychogeography congress. Interesting that my 8 year old daughter enjoys making maps too… Where is that going to lead?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ursulatro Post author

      Hi Andrew, oh thanks and yes pity we didn’t get to talk more. How interesting your daughter is a ‘mapper’ as well! yes where will that lead, wow that’s great! trying to find your blog…


  2. David

    Maps are fascinating, even the ones without the curvy contours that are reminiscent of the curves on the human body. And why be bound by Ordnance Survey, beautiful though their maps are (I ask myself)? Coincidentally to your interest in psychogeography, I am now reading Robert Macfarlane’s book ‘The Old Ways’ where he describes his experience of centuries-old routes. As someone who enjoys a hike, I was shaken up (in a good way) when he started writing about sea routes as also being old ways, and he describes his journeys through Scottish waters off the western isles, routes which used to be the fastest way to get about the world before land transport was industrialised.

    Liked by 1 person


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