Phenomenological and situationist walk in collaboration with chance

Theoretical premises

The project is rooted in the concept of aesthetics borrowed from phenomenological philosophy and in the practices flourished from the Theory of the Dérive, as defined by the situationist Guy Debord [1], theories and practices freely reworked by me, intertwining them with the poetics of chance to tailor them into an experience of social art.

Phenomenology sees aesthetics not as a category of beauty, an identification which has been the source of centuries-old misinterpretations, but as a sensory experience, as a way of acquiring knowledge through the senses, according to the original formulation of A.G. Baumgarten, the philosopher who for the first time introduced the misleading term Aesthetics.

In a chapter dedicated to “the reasons of aesthetics”, Dallari and Francucci well outline the contrast between two ways of acquiring knowledge, polar opposites for far too long: “Baumgarten distinguished in mankind two ways of acquiring knowledge: on the one hand the aesthetic one, conceived precisely as “Scientia cognitionis sensitivae “, on the other the logical and intellectual approach to things, the rational knowledge. A rational knowledge which will later be called scientific, thus implicitly depriving Scientia (that is, knowledge) of the possibility of functioning and defining itself also through the path of emotions and intuitions – that is, through the aesthetic path.

Unquestionably, as for myself, I neither want to reinforce sterile contrasts nor strengthen the opposing logic: if in this case, initially at least, I prefer the aesthetic-sensory approach, it is only because I consider it the foundation of human experience and therefore the one from which to start…at every new start.

The Theory of the Dérive, introduced in 1956 in a Paris foreshadowing May 68 and all its social, political and cultural upheavals, has its roots in Marxist criticism, and sees the reclaiming of free time and play space as an opportunity to break free from the suffocating control of capitalist consumerism. It became imperative for the situationists to reclaim time away from the mere utilitarian and monetizing approach, the time of play, and in order to do so they design aesthetic actions and construction of Situations, that is, of adventures. On the basis of the surrealist idea of formalizing the perception of city space in the form of Maps of Influences, the situationists will develop a unique cartography linked to subjective perceptions, situational metagraphs  and psychogeographic guides, more useful to loose oneself rather than to find a way, but beneficial for a new form of knowledge.

Maps are a very important resource for human beings and like all abstractions can help us to synthesize complexity but we must remember, on the basis of the affirmation of Gregory Bateson, that “the map is not the territory”[4] and that, however accurate, it still is representation and convention. Moreover, since the brain constructs the “images” that we think we perceive, there cannot truly be an objective experience.

We will try to measure the difference between the two levels of reading and writing of the environment: the subjective and phenomenological level, in the terms indicated above, and the objective one of a map downloaded from a GPS localization app. However, this measurement does not aim to establish which of the two level is dominant but, if anything, to promote and enhance the integration between the two approaches to knowledge, the concrete, sensory and emotional one and the abstract, intellectual and rational one.

The project in a workshop that integrates art for wellbeing.

In the workshop project that I present, the goal is to renew the relationship with the Environment through aesthetic practices and the use of aleatory techniques.

An environment perceived not abstractly but as an existential landscape, space-time, populated by other bodies and other desires.

Thus, an objective landscape, consisting of relationships with objects, people, as well as relationship with the gap left between objects and people. The focus, therefore, is on relationships in the broadest sense, that is, what has the great potential for regeneration and healing.

The place or the paths that we are used to, around which we far too often move mechanically and absent-mindedly, can turn into spaces of adventure and renewed knowledge, if we equip ourselves with an unconventional gaze, starting from the instrument of experience par excellence: that vertical axis that is our body, erected for millennia on the horizontal ground.

Let’s start again from here and let’s take ourselves along with our body into the Environment, be it urban or natural.

Let’s take some steps.

We will try, very gently, to strip ourselves of small portions of the defensive structure we built to relate with the outside world, and at the same time learn new techniques that will transform that very structure, as time goes by, to no longer be a space of withdrawal but regain its dimension as a space for engagement, with ourselves and with the other: whether an object, person, animal, a full or empty space.

To make way for the unconventional glance I mentioned, we will use some aleatory expedients * that will contribute to an enlivened disorientation thanks to which we will try to break stereotypical habits and routines.

Following the experience-path conducted in small groups, we too, like the situationists before us, will try to build perceptual, subjective, emotional maps. Maps that know how to record the influences of the environment on us and ours on the environment.

Finally, we will measure the gap between the maps made and the objective ones previously downloaded from a GPS localization app.

We will close the workshop by sharing our experiences and the work done.

*Examples of exercises: Draw or photograph empty or negative spaces/ Record field noises/ Follow people randomly/ Follow a smell / Follow a dog/ Follow a colour/ Take a bus randomly for a few stops/ Choose directions with the toss of a coin/ Walk trying to identify where a mood change occurs/ Compose a poem with words read while walking/ Make a collage or assemblage with things taken or found/ Find an excuse to speak with a stranger / Try to perceive colour changes in the environment/ Walk trying to identify where an opening (attractive points or areas) or a closing (repelling points or areas) occurs/ Identify where a homogeneous area ends and a different one begins/ Close your eyes for a short time and listen only to sounds/ Observe or record what happens inside a small frame containing a transparent glass/ Observe or record what happens in an environment through a portable mirror/ Try to meditate amidst traffic/ Take a break every time you see a child/ Take a break every time you pass a taxi / create a poem with the words randomly heard or seen while strolling around

[1] Guy Debord, Théorie de la dérive, 1956

[2] Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, Meditazioni filosofiche su argomenti concernenti la poesia,1735

[3] Marco Dallari, Cristina Francucci, L’esperienza pedagogica dell’arte, Firenze, La Nuova Italia, 1998, p.10

[4] Gregory Bateson, Mente e Natura, 1979

Nelle foto:

La Passeggiata e la Mappa Aesthetica
27 February 2022
Punto di raccolta e dispersione: Piazzale Ostiense, Roma
Participants: Alex, Elena, Francesca, Rossana, Simona

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