‘Psychogeography made the city subjective and at the same time drew subjectivity out of its individualistic shell.’

– McKenzie Wark, The Beach Beneath the Street

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Super 8 film of a walk in on the 2004 winter solstice search of the psychogeographic ‘nodules of energy’ that surround the town of High Wycombe. The walk follows a ley line that runs from Tom Burt’s Hill to the Hell Fire Caves at West Wycombe.

octagon

We are stopped from filming with a handi-cam in the Octagon Shopping Centre. We put the case that we may be tourists just capturing memories. We are marched through back corridors to a stern-looking woman sat behind a desk acting for the centre manager. She tells us in no uncertain terms that filming and photography are not permitted in the Octagon regardless of the purpose. This is private property, and the owners, Stannifer, do not allow filming and photography. Is this a vision of what awaits us in the new development?

The redevelopment of Wycombe Town Centre, and shopping centres per se, can be seen as perfect models of the Situationist idea of the Spectacle; an unreal world in which we are not active participants but spectators.

What was once merely open public space becomes a private commodity.

In the dark days after September 11th, Americans were urged to demonstrate their patriotism not by rallying around the flag, but their president went on TV to order them out to the mall to spend, spend, spend. Consume for the sake of the nation. In less pressing circumstances the people of Wycombe are urged to support the scheme because it will supposedly bring legions of wealthy shoppers to town. We are seduced with visions of a utopia where all our needs will be met on one site.

The TCR site as it stands may be seen as a deadzone; rows of cars and semi-derelict buildings. But it is a public space that is the location for many diverse activities be it prostitution, parking, drug dealing, meeting friends, mustering for a demonstration for pensioners rights. It is the users of this space who define its meaning and purpose.

“Only in transgressing the rules of planned space can we really find our own meaning and space.” (Ian McKay, Southampton Institute) This is something that we must continue to do to avoid our environment being stripped of its spirit and re-branded a mono-cultural non-place.

November 2004.

“The past, the present, and the future…overlap in a messy configuration. Architects can never get and keep control of all the factors in a city which exist in the dimensions of patched-up expendable, and developing forms”.

– Lawrence Alloway, The Independent Group.

st-wulfstan

‘Wulfstan’s exploits in Wycombe are well recorded in a number of sources and are worth mentioning again. He was Bishop of Worcester from the reign of the so-called Confessor until that of William Rufus. He stopped in Wicumbe one night on his way to court in London and stayed in a ramshackle old house. In the middle of the night the house began to shake violently, started creaking and cracking, then the rafters fell. Everybody fled for their lives except old Wulfstan who kept calm and slowly made his way out onto the street and as soon as he was clear the whole place collapsed. Shortly afterwards he was invited back to Wicumbe to consecrate the parish church and not wanting to disappoint the locals miraculously cured a maid of a grievous disease of the mouth and throat.’
– From Bucks Biographies, Margaret Verney 1912