Ghost walks, palimpsest, psychogeography

(cc) Julian Kucklict on Flick

As a printmaker I was/am (?) obsessed with the subject of urban ‘witnesses’, Tinsley viaduct and the cooling towers outside Sheffield being a particular favourite subject for me. I painted, drew, photographed gasometers, weaving sheds, wind turbines and other edifices, old and new, that seem to have an all-knowing presence in the urban landscape.

I keep coming across ideas that remind me of this as I explore space, place and learning. 

This article on place and walking in Foreground explores similar ideas and introduces psychogeorgraohy: The city-as-palimpsest: A primer on ‘psychogeography’. It begins, ‘When people traverse cities, they also walk over the multitude of psychological experiences of a place – spanning trauma, ecstasy, and more. But how exactly does ‘psychogeography’ inform your sense of a city?’

While these ideas are somewhat fantastical for my usual consideration of learning spaces, they do resonate with ideas that I think are important about place making, belonging and identity by acknowledging the psychogeographical dimension of space that can capture us as we form our association with places. There is something we should not dismiss about the romantic pull of places, including learning spaces, in which one senses the experience of your predecessors. For me as a student it was the feeling that other students had used the printmaking facilities before me and gone on to graduate and make their way. 

Such resonances may be found in marks left in furnture, student work framed and mounted on walls, blog posts, alumni comments, or podcast feeds of student conversations. It is partly this that drives my interest in zoning learning space – that is, having spaces dedidicated to disciplines where students and staff can build associations, identities and memories. We see the valu of this in field trips and other infirmal spaces where experience is shared. It worries me that learning spaces are so often discussed in terms of financial invrstment when real value can come from shared experiences. Inviting or allowing for poetry readings or other performances or ‘exhibitions’ or ‘happenings’ or fesrivals in the spaces we use could change the feel of our learning environments and help to create a strong sense of belonging.

I was not familiar with the word palimpsest until recently. It describes a pliable animal skin used and reused as a parchment for writing. Its reuse creates a patina-like quality over time and with each new writing there is a strong sense of the act building upon and adding to a rich legacy.

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About amiddlet50

Educational developer working in academic innovation in higher education in the UK
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