Age and occupation. How long have you lived here, where did you come from, and where do you live now?
Dave Mandl: Age: Ageless. Occupation: Computer geek, writer/editor, radio DJ, photographer, and co-organizer of Psy.Geo.Conflux. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, and still live there.
Christina Ray: Age: What Dave said. Occupation: photographer/painter, founder of Glowlab [a Brooklyn-based arts lab], and co-organizer of Psy.Geo.Conflux. I was born in California but have lived all over the country and in Japan for a few years; currently living in Brooklyn.
Three for Two
1. You're organizing the 2nd annual Psy.Geo.Conflux conference/festival in NYC. Can you tell us more and what "psychogeography" is all about?
The term "psychogeography" was first coined by the Situationists in the 1950's. The definition is roughly "the study of the effects of the physical environment on human emotions and passions." Psychogeography is about exploring or experiencing the physical landscape in new ways: trying to find what's marvelous, life-affirming, or at least exciting about seemingly mundane places--or transforming them to make them more marvelous, life-affirming, or exciting.
There's also a strong utopian element in psychogeography--there's the impulse to create spaces that are more congenial, more exhilarating, more conducive to romance, etc., rather than seeing them as just conduits for the movement of commuters or consumer goods. Psychogeographers are generally very interested in architecture (if it's done right); "intentional communities" can also have a lot to do with psychogeography, since they're about creating ideal social and physical spaces from the ground up. There's often an interest in chance and randomness, and the desire to study or subvert the paths and patterns we create as we walk through cities.
As for the Conflux, we noticed that there'd been a big surge in interest in psychogeography in the past few years, so we thought it would be a good idea to bring a lot of the people who are thinking about these things together for a four-day event in New York. It seems that there's been much more psychogeographical activity, and much more collaboration on projects, in Europe and Canada than here, so we felt somewhat obliged to get something going in the States.
2. Is this a "take back the streets" movement and if so, who are we taking it back from?
Yes and no. It's not usually that explicitly political (though it is implicitly political). It's more about transforming spaces and "using" them in new ways. True, that sometimes involves taking them back. But we don't think we ever really gave them up to begin with.
3. Funerals For A Moment -- just one of the projects featured in the Conflux that got me thinking. Several years ago when ordering an egg sandwich on a plain bagel (not toasted) at the Hot Bagels deli on Houston right next to Katz's I remember making the last second decision to request a slice of tomato. How does this rank as an NYC inconsequential moment?
It's pretty inconsequential, but it might have been a life-changing instant for you. We wouldn't want to make any assumptions.
Time travel question: What era, day or event in New York's history would you like to re-live?
We're both pretty fascinated by early New Amsterdam. We would love to have hung out at Canal St. when it was a Canal, or Bowling Green when it was a bowling green, or Wall St. when it was a wall.
9pm, Wednesday - what are you doing?
Dave: I'm right in the middle of my radio show (WFMU-FM).
Christina: Sometimes trying to tune in WFMU -- without much luck.
Where do you summer?
Both: The same place we winter, spring, and autumn--Brooklyn.
What happened the last time you went to L.A.?
Dave: I decided for the first time that I really loved it.
Christina: I rode around in a rental car for days with a video camera pointed out the window to capture the loopy, curving freeway architecture. I was the passenger, not the driver.
If you could change one thing about New York, what would it be?
We'd re-appropriate corporate atriums and convert them to public parks.
The Psy.Geo.Conflux is taking place all over NYC on May 13 to 16.