Getting Lost

7 years ago  •  0 Comments
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness

to be tempted of the devil.

And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights,
he was afterward an hungred.

Matthew 4:1-2

Abandoned by their parents, failed by breadcrumbs…

“They walked the whole night and all the next day too from morning till evening, but they did not get out of the forest, and were very hungry, for they had nothing to eat but two or three berries, which grew on the ground. And as they were so weary that their legs would carry them no longer, they lay down beneath a tree and fell asleep.”

Hansel and Gretel, The Brothers Grimm

“Not to find one’s way in a city may well be uninteresting and banal. It requires ignorance – nothing more. But to lose oneself in a city – as one loses oneself in a forest – that calls for quite a different schooling.

Then signboards and street names, passers-by, roofs, kiosks, or bars must speak to the wanderer like a cracking twig under his feet in the forest, like startling call of a bitten in the distance, like the sudden stillness of a clearing with a lily standing erect at its center.”

– Walter Benjamin

Henri Lefebrve despaired the ‘quotidienneté’ or ‘everydayness’ of modern city life as soul-destroying, within a context of banal social interaction and a materialist environment.

Conceived of most urbanites as workaholic sleepwalkers, lost in an endless ‘metro-boulot-dodo’ or ‘subway-work-sleep’ routine.

Guy Debord and the Situationists sought to combat alienation under capitalism, the culture industry and commodity fetishism, through techniques such as “Psychogeography” which was the “study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment . . . on the emotions and behaviour of individuals”

Their initiatives included the “Dérive,” a “drifting” walk through urban space during which one could seek the unexpected, freedom from bureaucratic control, and a dream up a utopic projection of an alternate reality.

There is a familiar strategy when lost of finding someone who looks like they know where they’re going, and following them.

In 1969, Vito Acconci staged “Follow Piece” as a public intervention executed daily over one month. It involved following one randomly chosen stranger through the streets of New York until he or she entered a private location.

As Acconci described it, “I am almost not an ‘I’ anymore; I put myself in the service of this scheme.”

Oblique Strategies (Over one hundred worthwhile dilemmas) is a set of cards created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt in 1975. Each card contains a cryptic phrase which can be used during a dilemma.

Some examples: “Honour thy error as a hidden intention.” “Use an old idea”, “State the problem in words as clearly as possible.” “Only one element of each kind.” 
“What would your closest friend do?” “What to increase? What to reduce?” “Are there sections? Consider transitions.” “Try faking it!” “Ask your body” “Work at a different speed”

Before he was exploring ideas about participatory urbanism using mobile devices to crowd-source the collection of geolocated environmental data, Eric Paulos, with projects like “Jaberwocky,” was investigating ideas of using mobile phones to create passive network awareness, of for instance, other Bluetooth users, with the intention of maintaining consciousness in hypermediated urban commuters of subtle social phenomena such as the “familiar stranger.”
Christian Nold is an artist, designer and educator working to develop new participatory models for communal representation, includingBiomapping, a community mapping project that visualizes the emotional topography of cities, and Sensory Deprivation mapping, involving pairs of participants, one of whom cannot see nor hear and verbally relates their sensory experience while other guides them, takes notes, and carries a GPS-enabled mobile device.
Continuing from the Situationists, Fluxus, John Cage and Brian Eno, theDrift Deck, produced in 2008 by Julian Bleecker and Dawn Lozzi, is “an algorithmic puzzle game used to navigate city streets,” offering “instructions that guide you as you drift about the city.”

Every card features an object or situation that one might encounter, and a simple action that should be performed at that point.

Serendipitor, by Mark Shepard, is an alternative navigation mobile app that helps you “find something by looking for something else.”

Enter an origin and a destination, and the app provides several possible routes and directions of varying complexity. As you navigate your route, suggestions for possible actions at certain locations appear, including step-by-step directions, designed to introduce “small slippages and minor displacements.” Designed to help you “maintain consciousness” in a sentient urban environment of the near future.

“Get Lost!” by Pol Pla I Conesa was made in 2009 using Android, Arduino, Amarino, Google Maps API, a servo motor and an accelerometer. It reimagines the mobile device as a remediated interactive compass that generates random walks for the city-dweller with time to spare and who wants to get lost for a little while. The walker selects a duration on a timer dial – the only input – and then simply starts walking in the direction indicated by the pointer.