Dublin Psychogeographical Society: Report #2

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Being the second part of a dérive through Dublin with a map of Paris.

Rue Gay Lussac: “Marxism is the opiate of the intellectuals.” “All Power to the Dromedariat!” “Under the Paving Stones, the Metro!” These are just a few of the slogans that adorned the walls of Paris during The Events of 1968. They were the work of a group of quasi-revolutionaries known as the sans-culottes, students who preferred to spend their money on mind-bending drugs and so-called “pop” music than on trousers and haircuts. Some of the most famous photos from that period were taken on the rue Gay Lussac, and although I was slightly bending the rules of the dérive by hopping into a taxi, I felt that I had to pay homage to that site, if only to see how much it had changed in the intervening years.

As you can see, the burghers of Paris have taken Hausmannian steps to ensure that the cobbles of Gay Lussac will not be crowbarred free again for use as projectiles against the gendarmerie. They have submerged the entire street beneath water and blocked the pavements with trees. Reflect on this for a moment, because it tells us something about the class struggle: The bourgeoisie would sooner destroy all possibility of engaging in trade and commerce than provide weapons for the disaffected classes to express their antipathy. They will no longer provide the rope with which to hang them: They would sooner drown us all.

Basilica of Sacré-Cœur: One of the aims of psychogeography is to examine and explore the way in which particular geographical sites and environments impact on our feelings, our thoughts, our emotions. I have visited this monument to piety many times, and on every occasion, I have left it feeling sick. Perhaps it is just the fresh air hitting me after all that incense, but I suspect it is more likely my revulsion at the garishness of the basilica itself and what it stands for. Built in 1884 to “expiate the crimes of the communards,” in particular the killing of a bunch of nuns, the basilica dominates the northern skyline of the city, taunting Parisians, daring them to rebel again. It is my fervent hope that the next time the citizens rise up in revolutionary fervour and ask themselves “What is to be done?” they will look up, see this monstrosity, and say “Ah yes. We must kill the nuns.”

The Eiffel Tower: In his book Mythologies, structuralist fuckwit and entrepreneur Roland Barthes observed that the Eiffel Tower has the advantage of being the only place in Paris from which you cannot see the Eiffel Tower. He also explained how the tower transforms “culture into nature,” turning the city beneath one, all those manmade streets, boulevards, statues, knocking shops, into a vast jungle which one surveys much as God might survey his creation. Looking down at Paris from this great height (roughly 3 km), one appreciates that Barthes wasn’t entirely screwing around for the sake of it. The city does indeed look almost vegetal, a Deleuzian field of rhizomes, blossoming, exploding, coiling back on itself, disappearing underground at Montparnasse only to burst forth, unpredictably, over by the Opera Garnier in a cascade of one-way streets and traffic accidents, most obviously that laundry van that did for Barthes himself. Irony indeed. And was it not the Parisians who invented irony? How else to explain that, of all the people I ever met, they have the least joie de vivre. As Merleau-Ponty might have said, Go figure.

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