The conception of the dérive began in the 1940s among theorists of the collective Letterist International, a cooperative of artistic and political thinkers based in Paris. The idea began as a critical tool for developing the theory of psychogeography, defined as the “specific effects of the geographical environment (whether consciously organized or not) on the emotions and behaviour of individuals.”
In effect the notion of the dérive is an unplanned journey through an urban landscape directed entirely by the emotive quality of space, personal inquisitiveness and feelings evoked by an individual in their environment. Mapping and investigating through these means becomes an exercise in psychogeography.
“A mode of experimental behavior linked to the conditions of urban society: a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances.” Guy Debord – Situationist International
The need for the dérive is a reaction to the monotony of the everyday 9 to 5 and the increasing predictable behaviours of movement in the city; a response to the impact of advanced capitalism. It contributes a rare instance of pure chance to the urban landscape for a completely new and genuine experience of the city life with many atmospheres and activities.
It is using this platform that cities could be planned so new environments still possess a certain magnetism, and combinations of space could sequentially add up to the possibilities of chance encounters. Famously the Situationists created their psychogeographic map of Paris; an exercise that cut up the conventional map of Paris in order to propose a more playful and dynamic sequence of spaces. (see below).
Here are some photographs of a route I took in Berlin.
Read more about the Situationists here.