Tag Archives: cities

Scott Knowles: Interview

24 Hrs. New Orleans map from Good Magazine.

24 Hrs. New Orleans map from Good Magazine.

A 24-hour walk.

Along with Scott Knowles, two guys named Kurt Braunohler and Calvin Johnson have created a series of psychogeography projects called 24 Hrs., of which I am a huge fan.

I read THIS article in Good Magazine (a wonderful mag you should check out).

In short, these guys take a group of 30-40 people and they walk around the city (New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans, etc.) for 24 hours, mimicking a 24-hour road trip, visiting unique businesses, cultural hot-spots, eating, drinking, performing tasks (cleaning a cemetery for an hour) until they are tired, disoriented, and experiencing their city in a mindset and time that they are unaccustomed to.

Since then, I have been having meetings about hosting a walk like this in Windsor. I want to make it a little different though. I want it specifically to be an orientation or re-introduction to our fine city of Windsor. I want it to run from 8am until midnight instead of being 24 hours.

The idea struck me so fascinating that I decided to find one of the organizers and interview them for Not In My Backyard, the new radio show on CJAM.

Scott Knowles, a professor of Urban History at Drexel University in Philadelphia, was an incredible person to talk to, and I felt a kinship to a man who has an explorer within him that has successfully reached the surface in the form of many psychogeographical projects like 24Hrs.

Before and after the recording, we spoke a little longer about the area of Windsor/Detroit and how I hoped his group would come and offer a walk in the Detroit area. Scott encouraged my participation in having a walk of my own, which was a fairly uplifting suggestion.

We discussed liability, which was a concern for the walk, and he offered his experience as an example. He tells his groups what’s a stake with their physical health, but he does not require a waiver to be signed. Why? Well, he feels similar to me on this, as the legality that people jump to when they are simply going on a friendly, organized walk is part of what ruins events just like this. It’s a sad commentary on society as a whole when the first thing you have to consider on a walk that will find you immersed on a ground level to your dwelling is liability waivers.

We talked about his other projects, including disorienting groups of blindfolded people by dropping them off in the middle of an urban centre, in the middle of a park or parking lot, and asking them to find their way back, as a group, to a particular spot. It is mostly a unnerving time when they first remove the blindfolds and try to figure out where they are. Secondly, it is a challenge to envision the city and the easiest route to the final spot. It’s a wonderfully fun idea I also plan on borrowing after the Big Walk.

Another event involved people keeping track, on paper, of every single minute that passed (in a given time frame of an hour or two) while walking through the city. It was an experiment and observation of the passage of time. The amount of things that occur in a given minute that we don’t bother consciously recognizing because of our haze of hurry we immerse ourselves within.

The last event he told me about was equally incredible. Artists, urban planners, etc. go to a venue (restaurant, coffee shop, McDonald’s, whatever) with tons of drafting paper and pens and markers. Then they decide, individually or in groups, what SHOULD be in the place of the building they are sitting in. They tape up the designs and ideas on the front of the building and debate the worthiness of their designs/arguments. It’s a beautiful concept because it’s an imagining. It allows those capable of envisioning better, to dream. It encourages wild-eyed hope and appreciation for a city, a surrounding that we want.

Talking with him was as uplifting an experience that an interview can be because of the clarity of his intentions and penchant for the less ordinary.

My interview with Mr. Knowles will run on October 7th at noon.

As it stands, with some unexpected and expected obstacles, the Big Walk will happen on Saturday, November 8th. I am only taking 25 people on this walk, and it will be first-come, first-serve. Interested? E-mail me at phoglounge@gmail.com