ARC 304: THE HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF URBAN FORM
with M. Christine Boyer (Fall 2003)

"Mapping the Creative Act" (Situationist International: The Naked City)

To reconstruct is to reinvent a historical entity under the influence of the biases and propensities of the present. Therefore, reconstructions can be as enlightening and insightful as they can be misleading. In fact, it is the very familiarity of the concepts, words, and forms that make these reconstructions the perfect vessels for attacks on widely held beliefs. It is with this in mind that the Situationists set about unmasking the capitalist society. They launched their attacks via found, borrowed, scavenged, and stolen words and images - their attacks ranging from breaking streetlights to reprinting news clippings out of context. These acts not only exposed hidden meanings, but they celebrated the will to act and to participate. In their mapping project, The Naked City, the Situationists used a familiar symbol of orientation to produce an entirely different conception of mapping, a kind of pseudo-scientific study of the psychological pushes and pulls of the built environment.

This project attempts to reconstruct the creative force behind The Naked City by playfully re-performing the Situationists’ careful destruction of the Paris city map. It attempts to see through the final product by thoroughly investigating the act of creation itself. The precision with which the “unities of ambience” are cut and the way in which the various regions are then separated out and reconnected metaphorically with arrows is of great interest. Yet, the ideal of the non-product (ephemeral action as the ultimate goal) as well as the Situationists’ method of revolution (i.e., cultural recycling) are ultimately ineffective in supplying a valid alternative model to that which exists. In essence, this project is an investigation into the creative act, weighing the value of the end product while also delighting in the act of production itself.