The Psychogeographer
or the lonely soul in a caring economy

text: Tom Brennecke,
PhD student at the University of Milano-Bicocca, graduate at the Facutly of Architecture at University of Applied Sciences in Wismar, Urban Studies at the Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology,
graphics: Ela Zdebel,
Urbanism student at Technische Universiteit Delft

reading time: around 15 min

“The unity of nearness and remoteness involved in every human relation is organized, in the phenomenon of the stranger, in a way which may be most briefly formulated by saying that in the relationship to him, distance means that he, who is close by, is far, and strangeness means that he, who also is far, is actually near.” 1

1. Georg Simmel, The Stranger,1908

2. Collin llard, Places of the Heart – Psychogeography of Everyday Life; Places of Affection, Bellevue Literatry Press, 68

Someone forgot a pumping heart. I found it yesterday morning laying besides a bin of my beloved supermarket. I wrapped it in a bread bag and put it in my pocket. Then this morning, as I walked my dog, I found an ear. It was placed on a transformer, directed towards the entrance of the metro. I placed my headphones inside it and carried it home — both of us listening to Dancing in the Dark. Back home, I quickly threw it in a box, to the pumping heart, and set out again. For hours, I have found nothing else than notebooks, tissues, cigarette stubs with lipstick on and those tiny floating plasma curls. If you touch them once, I promise, you will not do it again. Plasma curls can hardly be returned. It is non-erasable ballast. It was already dusk when I crossed the junction close to my house. As the car passed and offered not only way but silence, I heard a mumble resting in the air, almost like a perfume. "I cannot wait more days to meet you again" is what I understood, or wanted to understand. From previous experiences, I am well-aware of the fact that one has to be careful approaching these things. A simple answer is not enough, so I managed to press my eyelids strong enough to generate a teardrop. Those things love teardrops. Back home, I slowly directed "I cannot wait more days to meet you again" into the box, together with the ear and the heart.

"We may store our memories in our houses, but we take them with us when we leave. If we are lucky, they can form the backbone of a happy adult life, but our early memories, if they are not so benign, can spring their mental coils at unexpected moments, leaving us with unsettled feelings..."

Like my colleagues, I was a newbie when all of this started. No one knew anything about psychogeography; and the ones that did hear of that, had no idea it could be something material. We are out all days, collecting these things that we call lost public goods. We know that no heart, or ear, or conversation is able to survive on its own. But we are not simply collectors of lost and founds, we are psychogeographers. I, myself, am now 49 years old — almost too old to do this job. But I have had luck in my life, except once, when I lost my own heart. Someone returned it to me, quickly but careful. For 10 odd years, I did not know who he was. So I lost it again. And once more. And once more. Every time a little more obvious, nonetheless more painful. I was shattered. And in the worst of all moments, the saviour of my heart made a mistake. Instead of my heart, he gave me his. And from this moment on, I was a psychogeographer, estranged from my own soul and driven by the pain of others. Psychogeographers are only out when no one else is. One cannot see those things laying about in the modern metropolis. They choose places of silence, little corners, plinths and cracks. So what do we do with that stuff, someone has asked me recently. And the answer is: We do not actually know. We have heard of cases where a pumping heart has been successfully returned to society, serving a greater good, but those times seem to remain exceptions. It was all easier, when people were more susceptible for such things. When a broken heart still mattered and charity was held high. Nowadays, with everything physically we find, we equip museums - everything metaphysically has to wait until this one very moment, when someone says "When do we meet again?" and I can jump into the scene, throwing "I cannot wait more days to meet you again" in between the lines. The possibility of a rejection remains, but interfering in the world is always risky.

3.Collin Ellard, Places of the Heart – Psychogeography of Everyday Life, Places of Affection, Bellevue Literatry Press, 2015, 126

4. Walter Benjamin, The Storyteller, 2016, Too Close, Verso (Chapter 8)

"...psychiatric disturbances related to anxiety occur with greater frequency in urban environments. Diagnosed rates of anxiety disorders, clinical depression, and schizophrenia are all higher among those who live in cities than among those who live in rural areas." 3

I have caught myself not being able to walk freely. I have caught myself scanning the environment for these lost beauties, for ownerless hearts, for reusable scam and fainted properties. I could not sleep for days on end. Every Friday, we all meet to sketch out new plans, organize us and demarcate what our job is and what not. There have been weeks, when we have all been worn out from all the emotions we have found. One of our oldest members is every now and then sharing a story of what happened 1919 in Paris, during the Spanish Flu. They had to bury many hearts, as many as the soil could take. Some thoughts and ideas could never be returned to society. Everyone fled to places and to hopes. "And what overwhelmed me was longing. Longing for the very same Paris in which I found myself in the dream. But where does this longing come from? And where does this disfigured, unrecognisable object come from? The reason being I came too close to it in the dream. The tremendous longing which had struck me here, in the heart of that which was longed for, did not press itself from the distance into an image." 4

5.Roger Frie, Loneliness and relatedness: a philosophical and psychotherapeutic account in Miller; D. Eric, Olivia Sagan, Narratives of Loneliness – Multidisciplinary Perspectives from the 21st Century, Routledge, 201832

6. Merlin Coverley, Guy Debord and the Situationist International in Psychogeography, Pocket Essentials, 2006, 96

Obviously, since then we have improved. We have set up our agenda. We are a caring economy. Mainly run voluntarily, without any expectations from anyone. You may describe us as an informal organization. In times like these, we sometimes work for clients; but our motivation comes from caring. Caring is our capital. We are rewarded with emotions and memories: At best, when we can reunite people, spark a positive conversation with a thought that has been lost. At worst, when someone dies upon return of his broken heart. But that is part of the job. We avoid ignorance, we maintain stability of the urban realm.
After our Friday meetings, we usually turn to a café or a bar, when things are not too bad. This time, we have no place to go. So we sit together, mostly in silence and eat a couple of small things, like in an aperitivo. When we are out, we are a group of geographers having an internal meeting. When we return home, all on our own, we are a group of psychos — all suffered individually from their experiences and losses; people who "exist within a private language and unique syntax." 5 We are deriveurs, if you want: “...conducting a psychogeographical investigation, [...] expected to return home having noted the ways in which the areas traversed resonate with particular moods and ambiences” 6

In front of my door was a mask walked to ground. I noticed it first when I already stood on it to fish for my keys in my pocket. And I did not only stand on a mask, but squeezed something underneath it. I took out my glove and lifted the mask. A bleeding mouth was sticking to it. The mouth was moving, so I hold it close to my ear. “I want to disappear" is what it said. But I will also return this mouth. I will find the one who has been shut down by a desire to disappear. And one can imagine that more often than not, I find even more intimate things than a mouth. Things, one cannot imagine, someone else would ever lose. Things, I do not even dare to take home. The price we pay for what we do is high, the failure rate amongst us has risen exponentially in the last years. But balance is important. Too big is the risk of having unbalanced emotional levels in our everyday life. We cannot afford to lose a heart, or a word, or a look for each other. And it is only the harshest of the situations, that pushes people to forgo on those things. Moments, where caring comes in the form of charity.