“In order to understand the city, one must situate oneself inside and outside of it.” – Henri Lefebrve
About 60 years ago, some people in France were angry that the city was trying to tell people what to do. Signs said “Buy this! Do this! Go this way! Stop! Turn here!” They felt like they couldn’t think for themselves in their own city anymore. They decided to try some things to help them think for themselves again and to help them feel like the city belonged to them and not just to businesses, stores, and the police. They wanted to be the ones who did the thinking and not just think what the television told them to think. They wanted to be the ones who did the making and not just buy whatever has been already made. One of the things they did was to place themselves in the city in ways that were not what they signs said to do. They went for long walks, just wandering around, without a plan or without following instructions from the city. They responded to the city however they wanted to respond, without it needing to make sense. They called this dériving. They called themselves, the Situationists.
Today, there are other artists who follow this tradition. Artists in the Bruce High Quality Foundation tackle sculpture. Alex Villar puts himself in temporary positions in public places as a way to know and be in the city in a new way. William Pope situates himself into the city, performing artworks about people in cities who don’t have power and people who do. Maria Gaspar places herself in front of a mural as if she is in the mural herself. She wants people to feel like they are part of their community and not just outsiders looking on.
TODAY’S PRACTICE: SITUATE YOURSELF IN THE CITY
When we go for our walk, if you see a place in the city that you want to situate yourself in, do. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but you. If you want, we can photograph you in your pose. Of course, when you do this, you need to be safe from cars, high places, and other dangerous parts of the city.
SITUATING IN A PLACE
SITUATING IN A MURAL