Friday, May 22, 2009

urbanity

Warning: This post may be less witty than the title might lead you to expect.

I have lived in a city for most of my life and I love it. My particular city is Sydney, although I lived for a (very) short time in London and would love to visit New York. Sydney is the city that I know best. Cities have been around for thousands and thousands of years, but I think the concept of what is 'urban' has changed somewhat. Or maybe it would be better to put it this way: cities have changed with developments in technology, the industrial revolution, class changes and so on. The way people relate to cities has also changed.

Graffiti may have been around for thousands of years, but I think maybe there is a shift since the 20th century in how people relate to the cities they live in. Or maybe not. Mainly I wanted to share some cool city related things.

Psychogeography

According to Guy Ernest Debord, apparently the originator of this concept, phsychogeography goes something like this: "the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals." He further goes on to talk about "the evident division of a city into zones of distinct psychic atmospheres." Voila pyschogeography. It gave rise to the situationists and derive (I'm still not sure how to do accents in this blog) who, as I understand it, put the ideas of physcogeography into practise in finding new ways of exploring the city.

I love this idea, this interest in exploring the urban spaces, the implications that the city is different to everyone, that everyone is living in a different city. There's an implicit ownership- that this is my city, that there are things which make it mine. This leads on to...

Urban exploration

Taking this concept of having your own city, of getting to know the city, and applying it to little-known and off-limits areas. Such as stormwater drains and abandoned buildings. This got bad press when a couple of people drowned in a stormwater drain in Sydney after heavy rain, but most urban explorers seemed to think those people didn't know what they were doing. There's a group in Sydney called the 'cave clan' that are involved in this.

I love this idea as well, the idea of discovering unknown parts of the city. Did you know that there is a disused train station under Sydney? Apparently there are organised and legal tours you can take that show you that. Abandoned buildings, especially industrial ones, have an aesthetic appeal for me. I love the idea of exploring these areas. A lot of these explorers take photos. The SMH put up a link to a website for urban explorers in the aftermath of the flash floods, which was fascinating, but now I don't know how to refind it.

Parkour

This take the idea of urban exploration, but applies it more to rooftops than tunnels. Ok, it's not really an exclusively urban pursuit, wikipedia tells me it was invented as a type of martial arts in the early 20th century. As I understand it, it's a way of getting from one place to another as fast as possible, unaided. It using a lot of gymnastic type skill. Some of the things they do are pretty amazing, type 'parkour' into Youtube sometime.

Lately Parkour has come to prominence after featuring in James Bond movie, as well as some other movies and video games. Andrew recently bought one of them, called 'Mirrors Edge', in which you run around rooftops and buildings using athletic skills to deliver packages, evade police and solve crimes. Pretty cool. Even if it's not exclusively urban, I love the way it fits so seamlessly into the urban environment and provides a new way of exploring it.

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Some of my Sydney is here, also recent discoveries include the David Jones food court and Carriageworks theatre- an amazing place made of an old railway related building.

3 comments:

  1. Anonymous7/6/09 16:07

    no comments on this? seems a shame. D.

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  2. Clearly I need to make more controversial posts to get comments :(

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  3. aw!! I should have commented! I really enjoyed this post!! Yay for more geographical posts!! I love Carriageworks too. And walking the streets of Chinatown, looking at all the abalone in the windows and being scared by the gorilla face-mask man. Boy is that thing scary!

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