[Illustration des expériences de dérives menées dans mon appartement en suivant la notion de psychogéographie]
The Naked Apartment is my adaptation of The Naked City by Guy Debord in 1957. To draw this map I was inspired by the exhibition in Mu.ZEE in Oostende History Without A Past by Samson Kambalu and Vincent Meessen. This exhibition allowed me to dive into this exciting (and a bit scary) period that the 50s and 60s were at artistic and political level. Being the daughter of a professor at Nanterre university I had a basic knowledge of the revolution happening then in the streets of Paris but little was my knowledge of what happened on the African ground. Little was also my knowledge on this fascinating movement that International Situationism was. So thank you Samson Kambulu and Vincent Meessen for this beautiful, inspiring and revolting exhibition.
For this drawing I was thus inspired by Guy Debord 's (one of the founders of International Situationism ) concept of “psychogéographie”. Under this inaccessible word lies a simple definition: the affective experience of urban space. We can complete this definition with the idea of “dérive” (drifting) which consists in roaming the city following your emotions. Guy Debord did it with the city of Paris in 1957. I do it in my apartment in Oostende in 2020 (in the middle of a pandemic so I can't drift / “dérive” anywhere else than in my apartment). I felt the need to accompany the drawing with this text, like my own manifesto or self propaganda but also to give some insight of my thoughts while drawing this “psygéographic” plan. Here is my
SELF PROPAGANDA or how to be a good situationist in time of lockdown
Always use the kitchen table
The kitchen table is at the center of the map and the central hub linking all the elements. This is because I am at this table 75% of the time. I eat, work, chill, read, draw... on this kitchen table. I do have a beautiful wooden desk just behind this table but I absolutely never sit there. This desk does not deserve to be on my map. It is placed facing the big windows and turning back to the rest of the living room. This wooden desk is smaller than my formica kitchen table where I sit all the time. That is maybe the reason why I never work or do anything at the desk. It is too small for me to feel comfortable and it is too much of a distraction and or pressure to have to face the beautiful landscape. The kitchen table on the contrary is big enough to feel comfortable and the very fact that it is a kitchen table takes off any pressure of “success” or to do “good work”. I thus feel free on my kitchen table with the big windows on one side I can stare at, if and only if I want to, and I can keep an overview of my living room. This kitchen table is a kind of tabula rasa on which anything is possible from spaghetti pesto verde with cheese to writing a text on situationism. I could never write this text sitting at the desk! Oh no never.
2. Allow the melancholy
If one carefully observes the map, one could ask: if I do all those things at my kitchen table, what the hell would I do on the sofa? Considering I still have to sleep from time to time which happens of course in the bed. Here is my answer: sometimes to allow my mind to “dérive” or drift I need a less square and sharp environment. I thus shift to the sofa or even to my bed to put myself in a more cosy situation. Then, accompanied by some ambient music, I can draw and write some nice texts. I find myself in a cocoon following a certain romantic and melancholic image of creativity. And this is not always possible from my kitchen table !
3. The ultimate “dérive”: washing the dishes
The notion of “dérive” from Guy Debord is originally used to rethink urbanism in its spontaneity and playfulness opposed to its utilitarian logic of work. I took the liberty to expand this notion to our situation now. Because I cannot go to any places, to any cities and wander around, I had to rethink the notion of “dérive” which I could apply inside my apartment. As you can see with the map, I drift very easily in my apartment but that is not enough to stay sane. In order to extend my field of possibilities I encourage my thoughts themselves to drift inside my mind. I attempt to let my thoughts playfully guide themselves through my emotions or state of being at a given moment. I discovered that the best place to do so is at the sink in the kitchen, washing the dishes. Indeed, having to accomplish a simple task like washing the dishes puts the body in an available state while leaving enough space in the brain to let the thoughts go wild. I got quite a lot of ideas or exciting thoughts while standing in front of my sink washing the dishes. The presence of such a utilitarian action (washing the dishes) might not be to Guy Debord 's taste but unique situation requires unique action.
4. “Ne travaillez jamais”
Never work. That is a slogan written on a wall in Paris by Guy Debord in 1953 and reused a lot during the events in May 1968. This slogan is seen by some specialists as the first symbolic act of a political and aesthetic revolt against the established order. I am a young artist earning a living from my art thanks to state subsidies and institution 's coproductions. I am usually resilient and accept my embeddedness in a certain structure. But I have to say that this time of forced unemployment caused by the lockdown could be considered as a sort of “temporary autonomous zone”, terms from philosopher Paul Virno calling for “ephemeral but crucial gaps in an otherwise suffocating global capitalist order, gaps that, at the very least, make other forms of social organisation and perception seem momentarily possible”. This quote is by Maggie Nelson referring to Paul Virno in her very inspiring book The Art of Cruelty, in 2012.In our situation now in time of lockdown the “temporary autonomous zone” finds its limit in the fact that it can only raise from an already privileged perspective. Indeed I can benefit in a way from this situation only thanks to my otherwise correct economic situation which guarantees a roof above my head and food in my plate even without officially working for a certain period. This said, to stay busy creatively outside of the usual system gives a certain feeling of freedom and independence (which I will be happy to leave for a more economic sustainability. Sorry the revolutionaries...).
5. “Invent a memory for the future”
This is a quote by Vincent Meessen talking about the exhibition in Mu.ZEE History Without A Pastin a conversation with Samson Kambalu and Karima Boudou for Mousse Magazine. He talks about what drives him in his encounter with Samson Kambalu: “there isn’t a need to possess or to claim something but [a need] to invent a memory for the future. We try to create co-presence, to make sense today in our despairing context. Out of double negativity comes a positivity that definitively lies in the common”. Vincent Meessen is of course here talking at universal level but I am going to establish a rather trivial connection with my personal situation. Again, everything has to be brought to its context and my context right now is to a certain extent my apartment. So here is the personal anecdote. I broke up a few months ago with my partner. We were together for eight years and bought an apartment together in Oostende a few years ago. We decided that my partner would keep the apartment. I found a place for myself but I will be able to move there (also in Oostende of course) only in a few weeks. My partner had the kindness to rent a room one street away from ours, now his, apartment so that I can stay in his apartment for the time of the lockdown. The result is that I live in an apartment which is not really mine but filled with my stuff, stuff that belong in my feeling to a past life. I thus live in a kind of in between time and space. This situation made me anxious at first. But thanks to this extended period of isolation in this in-between space, it allows me to calmly make sense of my past to better construct my future. In my context, my past is more than ever moving and alive. I invent a memory for an optimistic future. “Positivity lies definitely in the common”, even with an ex boyfriend.
That was my SELF PROPAGANDA or how to be a good situationist in time of lockdown.
I agree that those are trivial points but times like this one need triviality. Sometimes the trivial helps making sense or even surviving a situation. As the exhibition History without A Pastreminds us: playfulness is key. “Art as a form of radical generosity” and “playing as a form of gift-giving” are two very exciting notions embraced beautifully by Samson Kambalu and Vincent Meessen. We are all part of a game in the larger scheme of things. What is most important is that a situation is created and a gift is given.
Mila Camille Paycha