Tracking Paris Personal Project

City: Paris
Type: CAD-drawings
Scope: Plotted plans

Hardware used: Garmin eTrex Legend H, Apple MacBook Pro.
Software used: EasyGPS, Microsoft Excel, Rhinoceros (Grasshopper), Adobe Illustrator.

“Paris! Spectacular city with a roofscape full of imagination and a proper sense of tragedy underneath, carved three-dimensionality set in stone and air like Lucio Fontana cutting his canvases introducing the third dimension into painting I find myself searching for the logic behind your interventions. Psychogeographicly studying the effects this environment has on my behaviour, drifting away, where history and future are married together in extravagance, leading a trace of melancholy behind, so one has to sigh while looking at it with wonder.”

When I came to Paris in September 2011 tracking my movement for one week I felt directly reminded at two extremely different Parisian characters. One was the often criticised Georges-Eugène Haussmann who not only helped to change the image of the city of Paris drastically but who also described in detail his walks as an adolescent through the old Paris in his memoires. I had these images clear in my head while I was wandering around the streets comparing his mean descriptions with what I saw now. I could have also referred to the medieval Paris described by Victor Hugo in his novels but it seemed to me more interesting to read the city through the man who changed it most drastically in its physical shape. Carrying with me a book by Charles Baudelaire set in a modern, urban Paris, I felt quite confident to discover the city like another distinct Parisian character contrasting the former, called Guy Debord, founder of the Letterist International and founding member of the Situationist International.

With the term psychogeography Debord defined “the study of the specific effects of the geographical environment (whether consciously organised or not) on the emotions and behaviour of individuals.” I see the mapping of my movement as a similar study in relation to the city. The situationists developed their own way of exploring the city through a technique or act called dérive (“drift”) in which “one or more persons during a certain period drop their usual motives for movement and action, their relations, their work and leisure activities, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there.” Under these transcriptions I set out to explore Paris letting myself be drawn wherever the city took me, sometimes following along a long straight line/boulevard in order to reach to a framed object in the city’s structure, at other times sneaking into every side street that seemed interesting to me. The resulting plan is a good mixture between the layout of an organized city like New York City and a more chaotic one like London with its medieval fabric, which is a good circumscription of Paris in itself.

For further reading on the subject follow the links for Berlin, London and New York City.

All images on this page copyright Tristan D. Grey.