This month in the mutantspace arts skills exchange we review books by Rebecca Solnit, Marcel Mauss and and interesting book about psychogeography
Non – places: An Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity by Marc Auge
An ever-increasing proportion of our lives is spent in supermarkets, airports and hotels, on motorways or in front of TVs, computer and cash machines. This invasion of the world by what Marc Auge calls ‘non-space’ results in a profound alteration of awareness: something we perceive, but only in a partial and incoherent manner.
Auge uses the concept of ‘supermodernity’ to describe the logic of these late-capitalist phenomena – a logic of excessive information and excessive space. In this fascinating and lucid essay he seeks to establish and intellectual armature for an anthropology of supermodernity. Starting with an attempt to disentangle anthropology from history, Auge goes on to map the distinction between place, encrusted with historical monuments and creative social life, and non-place, to which individuals are connected in a uniform manner and where no organic social life is possible. Unlike Baudelairean modernity, where old and new are interwoven, supermodernity is self-contained: from the motorway or aircraft, local or exotic particularities are presented two-dimensionally as a sort of theme-park spectacle. Auge does not suggest that supermodernity is all-encompassing: place still exist outside non-place and tend to reconstitute themselves inside it. But he argues powerfully that we are in transit through non-place for more and more of our time, as if between immense parentheses, and concludes that this new form of solitude should become the subject of an anthropology of its own.
“Shopping malls, motorways, airport lounges – we are all familiar with these curious spaces which are both everywhere and nowhere. But only now do we have coherent analysis of their far-reaching effects on public and private experience. Marc Auge has become their anthropologist, and has written a timely and original book.”
Marc Auge is Director of Studies at the Ecole des hautes etudes en sciences socials in Paris. His books include La traverse du Luxemburg, Un ethnologue dans le metro and Domaines et chateaux
A Field Guide to getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
‘Never to get lost is not to live.’ “A Field Guide to Getting Lost” is a provocative investigation into the nature of loss, losing and being lost. Starting from the revelation that what is totally unknown to you is usually what you most need to discover, this book explores how finding that unknown quantity frequently requires getting lost to begin with.
Exquisitely written, this book manages to be both a heartfelt memoir, and a highly accomplished cultural study, with the bird’s eye perspective of one of the world’s most perceptive critics. Taking in subjects as eclectic as mapmaking and memory, Hitchcock and Renaissance painting, this book confronts the challenge of living with uncertainty.
Rebecca Solnit has written eight acclaimed works of non-fiction. An activist and cultural historian, she has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Lannan Literary Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She lives in San Francisco
The Gift: Form and Reason for exchange in Archaic societies by Marcel Mauss
In this, his most famous work, Marcel Mauss presented to the world a book which revolutionized our understanding of some of the basic structures of society. By identifying the complex web of exchange and obligation involved in the act of giving, Mauss called into question many of our social conventions and economic systems. In a world rife with runaway consumption, The Gift continues to excite and challenge.
As well as being a sociologist and anthropologist, Mauss was also a revolutionary socialist. Today his name is associated with the leading intellectual movement in France, MAUSS
Psychogeography by Merlin Coverley
Psychogeography. Increasingly this term is used to illustrate a bewildering array of ideas from key lines and the occult, to urban walking and political radicalism. But where does it come from and what exactly does it mean? This book examines the origins of Psychogeography in the Situationist Movement of the 1950s, exploring the theoretical background and its political applications as well as the work of early practitioners such as Guy Debord and Raoul Vaneigem.
Elsewhere, psychogeographic ideas continue to find retrospective validation in much earlier traditions from the visionary writing of William Blake and Thomas De Quincey to the rise of the flaneur on the streets of 19th century Paris and on through the avant-garde experimentation of the Surrealists. These precursors to Psychogeography are discussed here alongside their modern counterparts, for today these ideas hold greater currency than ever through the popularity of writers and filmmakers such as Iain Sinclair and Peter Ackroyd, Stewart Home and Patrick Keiller.
From Urban Wandering to Cognitive Mapping, from the Derive to Detournement, “Psychogeography” provides us with new ways of apprehending our surroundings, transforming the familiar streets of our everyday experience into something new and unexpected. This guide conducts the reader through this process, offering both an explanation and definition of the terms involved, an analysis of the key figures and their work as well as practical information on Psychogeographical groups and organisations