Transforming Cities: On the Passage of Situationist Dérive

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What is the continuing significance of situationist dérive for urbanism, spatial politics and performance? What might still be learned from reconsidering this practice that was developed more than sixty years ago as part of a revolutionary project, where critically drifting on foot was presented as a means of exploring how urban spaces are socially constituted, and how they might be lived and constituted differently? References to situationist dérive have burgeoned in recent years not only within the expanding field of walking art and performance, but also within contemporary culture more widely. As the term has become increasingly familiar, however, it has often been reduced to an innocuous diversion, to a pursuit of novelty and unpredictability in the face of urban conditions dulled by routine.

Against the widespread banalization of dérive, this article returns to aspects of its theorisation and practice by the lettrists and situationists during the 1950s and 1960s, and draws out their resonances for contemporary urban performance. Emphasising the need to situate those earlier practices within changing urban conditions of their times, my aim is neither to advocate for a ‘pure’ original form, nor to tether a field of walking arts that continues to proliferate, with or without reference to situationist precedents. But in taking specific cuts into dérive, I highlight in particular its transformative and strategic dimensions, and its orientation to revolutionising everyday spaces. If those aspects seem most distant now, I argue for the value of reengaging with them when addressing the potentialities of urban drifting, and for considering how cities can be performed and transformed beyond the existing order of things.
TidsskriftPerformance Research: a journal of the performing arts
Udgave nummer7
Sider (fra-til)18-28
Antal sider11
StatusUdgivet - 31 dec. 2018

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