Drifting for the Situationist International was more than just an urban walkabout: it was advanced as a critically informed walking practice in that it was a practice connected to the discovery of the qualities of any block of space and time. This psychogeography –noting the changing ambiances and atmospheres of a city’s spaces— was understood as a collective device for infusing life ‘with a superior passional quality’, in order that life could be reimagined differently from how it is currently constructed.
This Situationist mode of reimagining within a free space is is to imagine a city fit for human purposes in opposition to the city in capitalist modernity in which space is a mere backdrop against which economic forces can play out.
A free space is a space of play —homo ludens at play with the materiality of their environment creating everyday life. Reimagining cities so that they are survivable in the Anthropocene for a start, then resilient, then better for people than what they are now.
My walking in Wellington was much more prosaic. I walked around Island Bay, Wellington’s most southerly suburb that was named for the island of Taputeranga, which dominates the bay as I was staying with a friend who lived in Island Bay. Sally loved this place and could not imagine living elsewhere in Wellington. It was home. Early on the Sunday morning I walked down the 123 steps from Sally’s house before sunrise, down to the flat land, through the small, village-style shopping centre along the main road that went to the beach, then around the coastal path towards the Red Rocks at Owhiro Bay. I turned around an hour after sunrise and went looking for a cafe in the village for a morning coffee.
I didn’t know anything about the history of Island Bay—-pre-European or European— so I was unaware of the historical layers as I walked around the suburb. It looked was if it once a fishing village, then a seaside getaway for city dwellers before there was public transport and suburbia. I was surprised to discover that many of the streets were named after European rivers–Avon, Rhine, Seine and Volga. Was it is ever a place for those marginal, earthy bohemians, who lived outside the conventional rules of the welfare state in the backwaters and fissures of the city writing their poetry, novels, short stories and plays. I imagined them drinking, talking during the night about movement and life, whilst railing against the modernist city as a Platonic form purified of complexity gleaming in the sun.
As I walked along the coast I recalled that Island Bay was where I first picked up a camera and viewed the coastal world through a viewfinder. It was a friends camera, I was hooked, and went and bought a Japanese made 35m SLR the next day when I was living in Wellington. I could not recall what type of camera it was but I do remember walking around Evans Bay on the weekends photographing. There was work time/space. There was leisure time/space. There is sleeping time/space. I had no idea how to take photos. I just snapped away.