October the 2nd was an auspicious day, and, finding myself in Old Quebec in the afternoon with a few hours to myself, I decided to embark upon a dérive.

dérive is psychogeographical term denoting an unplanned, intuitive journey through a (usually) urban landscape, with the goal of encountering an entirely new and authentic experience.

“Walkers are ‘practitioners of the city,’ for the city is made to be walked. A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities. Just as language limits what can be said, architecture limits where one can walk, but the walker invents other ways to go.” – Rebecca Solnit (Wanderlust: A History of Walking)

There’s something cathartic about the enterprise – a pilgrimage of the soul without specific destination – a voyage of synchronistic discovery: physical and metaphysical.

“The longest journey begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

“Never trust a thought that didn’t come by walking.”  – Friedrich Nietzsche

“If you seek creative ideas, go walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.” – Raymond I. Myers

“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts.”   – Søren Kierkegaard

As well as using photography to document my dérive through Old Quebec, I took some field recordings. Two of them can be listened to here and here.

It’s interesting to note that whilst the French word dérive is usually translated as “drift”, the English word derive is defined thus:

1. To obtain or receive from a source.

2. To arrive at by reasoning; deduce or infer: derive a conclusion from facts.

3. To trace the origin or development of (a word).

– and therefore has some connotation with the concept of psychogeography and the dérive.

I would be delighted if you would peruse the full album of 100 photographs from my dérive, which are here, perhaps whilst listening to the field recordings linked above.

“In wildness is the preservation of the world.” – Henry David Thoreau

The great American author, poet, philosopher, naturalist, and historian Henry David Thoreau (who happens to share the same date of birth as me) wrote a seminal philosophical essay entitled “Walking”, which I highly recommend. It can be read here.

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” – Henry David Thoreau


2 thoughts on “Dérive

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