Exploring a city through a derive

When looking into De Certeau’s theory, he suggests that you walk through a city not view it. He argues that  walking in the city has “its own rhetoric” and with people’s limited scope as they move about and write their own course of subjective use of the urban space “the network of these moving, intersecting writings compose and manifold story that has neither author nor spectator”.

De Certeau, “the pedestrians of a city create it through their walking about, as an objective mass made of subjects which escape any planned or regulated scheme of the city. The pedestrian, while walking in the city, has his own style, which is a sort of language which speaks about the city and take part in creating its meaning.” In walking in the city, the pedestrian gives new meanings to places and streets which are not the same as those originally assigned to them. Pedestrians, for De Certeau, create the meaning of the urban space by applying their imagination to it through the manner in which they move about the city “linking acts and footsteps, opening meanings and directions, these words operate in the name of an emptying-out and wearing away of their primary role. They become liberated spaces that can be occupied”. 

We used De Certeau’s theory in ‘walking in the city’ and applied it to Guy Debord theory the derive. A derive is an unplanned journey through a landscape, usually urban, on which the subtle aesthetic contours of the surrounding architecture and geography subconsciously direct the travelers, with the ultimate goal of encountering an entirely new and authentic experience. Having applied the two theories together, to make sense of our location, and to avoid what the city wants us as tourist to look at, we did two of Debords derive, to explore the city in depth.

We did the random directions derive, we started off at the hotel, and took turns at choosing random directions to follow. With these directions we found ourselves at VE Stinadech, here we found a wall full of communism related graffiti and we had our first sighting of and old style communist tenant building (Panelak).

We did a second derive called the wrong map, this derive involves us taking a map of another city for example the map of Bucharest and using it as if it was a map in Prague. We used a Bucharest map and mapped out a route starting from Intercontinental hotel to Parliament Palace. When we used this route in Prague, it lead us from our hotel in Prague through Charles Bridge and the final destination which was The American Embassy.

Bucharest Map 

map hotel praliament building 2

Prague Map 

map prague

Lesoda Otu-Iso

Media Portrayal

Jan Palach article – http://www.britishpathe.com/video/jan-palach-funeral

Jan Palach article 2 – http://articles.philly.com/1989-11-22/news/26140827_1_czech-regime-czech-government-civic-forum

Prague Spring article – http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/august/21/newsid_2781000/2781867.stm

Vaclav havel article – http://edition.cnn.com/2011/10/05/opinion/avlon-vaclav-havel

Plastic People of the Universe article – http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/sep/06/plastic-people-velvet-revolution-1989

The amazing story of Vratislav Brabenec (Plastic People of the Universe)

The Plastic People of the Universe (PPU) is the most representative rock band from Prague, Czech Republic (1968–1989).

This avant-garde group went against the Communist regime and due to its non-conformism, its members suffered serious problems such as arrests. Banned and jailed under Czech communism, the Plastic People of the Universe helped to bring the regime down in 1989.

Vratislav Brabenec (saxophone, clarinet, vocals, composition, lyrics) and a member of The Plastic People of the Universe- told us his incredible story.

Vratislav Brabenec

“Communism is something like a religion…

It is known that the communists and the Bolsheviks and the soviet institutions were built like a catholic church. Same structure. “ I know about you, you can’t go higher because we know your sins. More sins you have, more important you are for us”. They know everything about you. […]

For me, the 70s were very bad, because I was part of a band, the Plastic People of the Universe… we had lots of concerts […] and because I was a musician, I was in jail for 8 months.

I was working as a landscape architect for the historical garden; one day they came and put me with the other people, in interrogations (very heavy interrogations) and they put me in jail.

They didn’t want to put in jail people that were workers, but intellectuals. I didn’t finish the study at theology, another guy from the band didn’t finish the architecture… but our manager finished the art history. So, I was in jail  for just 8 months, but our manager spent 8 and half years in the heaviest jail. Our manager wasn’t a performer, he was an organizer and also an art historian and jail happened because of his activity, the influence for the younger generation. So it was an example of how some fucking intellectuals wanted to have an influence on the younger generation with their crazy music, with their crazy poetry.

In the 80s I was kicked out of my country, striped from my citizenship, I was moved to Austria …Yeah.. they kicked me out . The secret police told me “you have two possibilities: to go to the jail again or to go abroad”. My daughter was 2 years old, my wife thought it would be better to move abroad, to go somewhere else…

In the beginning they told us that they would imprison us for 5 years or more , and after that they changed because a lot of things about our band , our cultural activities were published into the west, it helped us , and a lot of writers from the west helped us, because they wrote some protests to the communism government and they didn’t expect that… the communists didn’t expect that. Especially our former president… Vaclav Havel helped us a lot, he helped us after the jail again. We were recording in his farm, we had some secret concerts in his bar, and other things were happening, we were funny lucky people.!”

Marina Gogeanu

Interview transcribed by: Eduard Vasile