Mythogeography: A Guide to Walking Sideways
Triarchy Press, 2010 - Perception - 256 pages
Phil Smith, the CrabMan, is an academic, writer and performer who, for 20 years, has worked mainly as a playwright in experimental, physical, community and music theatres. Over 100 of his plays have been professionally produced. Since 1980 he has been the dramaturg at TNT Theatre, Munich. Since 1998, as part of the Wrights & Sites group, he has also worked on site-based and walking-related performance, and subverted forms of the guided tour. The idea of mythogeography arose within the work of Wrights & Sites to describe their efforts to free heritage and touristic sites from monolithic identities. Phil has numerous other collaborative projects under way: a 2-year research and performance project on one city street; a week-long, geology-oriented walking/performing project; making three films with filmmaker Siobhan McKeown. Finally, he is conducting 3 years' funded research at Plymouth University.
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1. From 'Walk' - the magazine of the ramblers
"The act of walking can be a political protest, personal expression, spiritual discovery and geographical deconstruction – all part of a tradition from the drift and dérive of the Situationists to today’s psychogeographers such as Iain Sinclair and Will Self.
Exeter-based performance artist Phil Smith is a veteran sideways walker and in this book develops psychogeography into mythogeography. It’s a compendium of walking stories, hoaxes and digressions, lists, literary jokes, observations and dense passages of prose poetry-cum- theory.
Pretentious at times perhaps, but you’d have a hard heart not to enjoy some of Smith’s involving, passionate and often very funny storytelling."
Des de Moor
2. From 'Interface'
"Presented as a compilation of documents “from the diaries, manifestos, notes, prospectuses, records and everyday utopias of the Pedestrian Resistance,” the book is populated by a horde of similarly unreliable narrators, nested like Russian dolls: sceptical notes from a junior publisher’s assistant and glosses from the mysterious editors (the book seems at first glance to claim no named author or editor) pepper the text, and the collations include documents apparently penned by persons missing, unknown, unnamed, or even – as in the case of the legendary mountebank/immortal alchemist the Comte de St. Germain – both mythical and historical...
This bewildering cacophony of voices is mirrored by Mythogeography’s approach to the constituent parts of the publication. Footnotes, rather than remaining confined to their ghettoes, interrupt and swamp the main text, sometimes for pages at a time. The endnotes appear halfway through, and two thirds of the book is devoted to front and back matter (a joke about inflamed appendices suggests itself here). This text is dense with signposts, and it’s difficult (and probably pointless) to plot a straightforward course through it. Rather it invites diversion, digression, a kind of textual drift on the part of the reader.
And of course drifting is at the heart of it. Mythogeography is cultivar or hybrid of psychogeography, the Lettrist and Situationist Internationals’ term for their field of urbanist investigation and experimentation, and their practice of the dérive is the basic template for many of the activities described in this book. But rather than just an exercise in minting neologisms, mythogeography as its described here encompasses other discourses: Deleuzian geo-philosophy, the mobilities paradigm in the humanities, Doreen Massey’s theorisation of space as constituted by multiple trajectories, and the performative, embodied cartographies of Tim Ingold (zombie films also loom large)... A ‘panography’ of relevant texts at the rear points provides some pointers for further research, and the main body contains many passing references to artists and particular works identified as having an affinity with mythogeography. No care is taken to distinguish real artists and works from the activities of the fictional cell-collectives purportedly responsible for authoring the documents here, but that isn’t really a problem. If it sounds like it’s a satire on tiny and short-lived psychogeographical groups and their quasi-official-sounding naming strategies, then it probably is – probably."
3. From 'Walking Home to 50'
"I had taken a book with me – Mythogeography: The Art of Walking Sideways – which I had known about for some time, but not delved into until now. It proved to be a compelling and fresh exploration of the ‘world of resistant and aesthetic walking’, part pseudo-literary account, part manual, part encyclopaedia. Plug:
The reach is wide and deep, occasionally idiosyncratic. The fragmentary and slippery format recognises the disparate, loosely interwoven and rapidly evolving uses of walking today: as art, as exploration, as urban resistance, as activism, as an ambulatory practice of geography, as