As part of my research for my BoW, and the idea of ‘site-specific‘ work, I have encountered the idea of mythogeography. Here is its definition  in relation to Psychogeography:
Psychogeography arises as one of a set of ideas and practices developed by the International Lettristes (who later gave birth to the situationists), a study of how places affect the psychological states of those who pass through them. With a reciprocal meaning: that the places might be changed in order to change the experiences and mental states of their residents and visitors. This was part of a theory of radical activism for the transformation of cities.
In the UK the concept of psychogeography was detached from activist meaning and reconfigured as a literary practice in the work of writers like Iain Sinclair and also gathered some occult trappings during this time from Sinclair, Peter Ackroyd and others.
Mythogeography describes a way of thinking about and visiting places where multiple meanings have been squeezed into a single and restricted meaning (for example, heritage, tourist or leisure sites tend to be presented as just that, when they may also have been homes, jam factories, battlegrounds, lovers’ lanes, farms, cemeteries and madhouses). Mythogeography emphasises the multiple nature of places and suggests multiple ways of celebrating, expressing and weaving those places and their multiple meanings.
Mythogeography is influenced by, and draws on, psychogeography – seeking to reconnect with some of its original political edge as well as with its more recent additions. While engaging seriously with academic discourses in areas like geography, tourism studies and spatial theory, mythogeography also draws upon what Charles Fort might have described as ‘the procession of damned data’. So, occulted and anomalous narratives are among those available to mythogeography, not as ends in themselves, but as means and metaphors to explain, engage and disrupt.
The term Mythogeography arose from the work of Wrights & Sites (site-specific performance makers).
The idea of celebrating and expressing the multiple meanings and weaving or unweaving is appealing and in line with my currently rather muddled thinking about the Nomadic Community Gardens as a contested space, a liminal place, a site, a community, a symbol, a target, an investment, a wasteland, an oasis, a canvas, a garden, a wild place, a bargaining chip, a palimpsest, a sacred camp, a slum, a playground, a shanty town, synecdoche, sanctuary, nightclub, agora, asylum…
The mythogeographers have developed a rich taxonomy of space that helps provide new lenses for my investigations of London and inspires fresh thought processes for viewing and visualising familiar places.
- Z-worlds: “apparently self-contained microworlds”
- Wormholes: “wrinkles in space that seem to connect you immediately to a far place”
- Almost Place: “like a just-planted forest”
- Accidental Museums: “places where the by-products of work, leisure or fortune are amassed and unintentionally selected and categorized”
- Dread Places: “detectable by an unidentifiably sourced anxiety”
- Anticipation Sites: “sites waiting in the future… the apparently empty airport… just seeded or bulb-planted municipal flower beds that will spell out a tourist-trade message.”
- New Menhirs: “decaying concrete bollards, gate posts that have lost their gates”
- Mislaid Places: “houses seen or visited, but that cannot be found again”
- Archaic Space: “libraries, institutes, institutions that have outlived their function are ripe for détournement”
- Dreamtime: “discarded beds and mattresses, frames overwhelmed by brambles, unexpectedly discovered on country paths and behind well-ordered urban edifices. These are delirious places where the walker can pause and invoke the dreams dreamt, babies born, the sex, the sleep, the unconscious. The inside in the outside.”
- Shock places: “where the granularity of place is shocked into liquefaction… this is where time is a character, running away”
And below  are some mythogeographical and provocative walking actions:
- Reverse Archaeology: The use of ruins to make monumental architectures of the future.
- Khlestakovianism: Making oneself a self-reflexive stage for others to act on, a performance that undoes oneself as character and rebuttons oneself as landscape.
- Miniature Architecture: The use of models and toys for sudden changes of scale… to assume the role of giants, for becoming incapable of access.
- Burdening: The carrying of containers and loads – at the edge of your physical capability – suggesting but not insisting on a move toward others, an irritant that provokes dialogue with the landscape, makes progress difficult and pilgrim-like.
- Autobiography: Untrustworthy storytelling that destabilizes the certainties of physical sciences and documentation, associations that uncouple the expected order of psychologies in carriage.
- Mis-guiding: The studied and pre-prepared disruption of municipal and official histories.
- Reading Symbols: The translation of the hieroglyphs of former mass productions’ faded marketings into imagined narratives, the assumption that a conspiracy, like a heraldry of the everyday, is at work.
- Category Catching: The categorization of spaces, a theoretical butterfly net in its tool kit. A neo-Platonic feint followed by a Fortean dummy (eroding the certainty of the general with the ‘damned facts’ of Charles Fort, who sought the general truth in unexplained anomalies). To become (almost) space, both general and driven by exceptions. The categories themselves are kept alive in the ‘drift’, their titles and definitions arranged like animals in ageing and transparent cases.
Into the theoretical and physical turbulence of the above behaviours, the drifter sets themself in motion, every time having to re-invent the theoretical structuring of their liquifacting mental museum, having to protest the ‘discipline’, as a map slides across the categories of territory: the Natural History Room of Space and Place.
Pressure on the ‘drift’ is always pushing it back to the functional. The briefest practical visits to shops or art galleries can dissolve a ‘drift’. At the same time, there is an entropic tendency of space towards scenery, of places becoming drained of their usable energies – still present, but become backdrops tempting the walker to stop and conquer the territory, to spread some ‘character’ across its surface. The drifter travels more effectively with a toolkit of categories of place and action, ready to detect and provoke places to perform themselves, to retain the availability of their energy for transfer to wider, more open uses, ready to raise the ghost (the map) rather than the character (the architecture) of theatre.
References & reading
- https://www.mythogeography.com/not-psychogeography.html (accessed 4.1.20)
- (2006) A Taxonomy on Its Toes, Performance Research, 11:1, 33-39, (accessed 23.11.19)
- Man, C. & Signpost. (2012). A Sardine Street box of tricks : how to make your own mis-guided tour on main street ; a handbook for making a one street ‘mis-guided tour’, identifying your significant street, mounting your walk and collecting your own relics. Axminster: Triarchy.