When Arundhati Roy said ‘the pandemic is a portal’ to rethink the world we have built for ourselves, it hit home, for a lot of us. What is home? Did we build one? Mother Earth reeks of indecisively cultured cities. Dear Mother is a wrecked piece in the larger celestial mechanism where foreign alien races of Neptune probably laugh at us. In a chain of catastrophes, today we are suffering from a virus that came out of nowhere and churned a global doom within days. The death toll is tremendous, suddenly masks, sensitizers and ventilators are the main jargons of our newsrooms. We are suffering. In this havocked idea of space, where occupying the global and social spaces is questionable, psychgeographical spaces can be utilized from an ulterior perspective- we can become flâneurs and flâneuse at home.
From the French verb flâner, the male noun flâneur, or ‘one who wanders aimlessly’, was born in the first half of the nineteenth century paving way from ideas psychogeography, closely associated to Guy Debord’s idea of exploring geographies or spaces from their effects of psychology as extended from the older ideas of Situationists. Psychogeography originated from the ideas of resistance: wandering and exploring spaces against the limbo. Flâneuse-ing is popularly linked to psychgeographical dérive, wandering aimlessly, seeking experiences from spaces, and imbibing joy. Though flâneurs and flâneuse of the Covid-19 world are not going to be able to explore the cities like they once did, anymore, but the idea of exploration can be tamed into less materialistic architectural researching and become resistance one step ahead, by exploring within closer spaces.
Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman complained about the gradual construction of skyscrapers around the skyline of his city, to such an extent that he could no longer see the sun. In the past two centuries we have built ourselves such architectural edifices that barely connect us to the natural surroundings and to seek such connections one simply must pay more, which like Willy a lot of us are incapable to do. Scavenger hunting within one’s own home can seen very brim at start but then one starts noticing the perfectly aligned rows of ants that yearly erupt from that one corner of the house or the cockroaches that metamorphose out of the blue in that specific kitchen side.
The spirit of the city exists beyond its mapped margins, psychogeographers have proved so over years of so-called idle walking around the cities. A.E Souzis’s idea of Momentary Ambiances in Cultural Geographies 2019 if used today, as a portal in the pandemic, can be incorporated in theorising joy acquiring at home. Or Gordon Douglas’s psychogeographical phrase, “to those in search of immunity” for MAP 2017 can now denote a need for building immunity, as one must, at home. Distilling social distancing as a mandatory idea to fight the pandemic the knowledge structuring of centuries based on the power of people and collectivism has received a weird blow where it’s people are not supposed to connect virtually, over the internet, to germinate a better world of ideas of it, for instance, almost all global education is happening over Zoom, Teams and similar e-mediums today.
The flora and fauna of homes can be a good start for homebased flâneuse-ing today. Decoding the lifestyle of your pet fish, fathoming the cultured living of the ants of your house, introspection of stray cats and kittens that casually jump around your terraces and porches etc. can be a phenomenal start. Diary keeping has been an interesting suggestion since forever and suddenly when your life is reduced to home and your thoughts are bound to become a nimbus of existential dread, penning down homebased explorative ideas can be a good resistance mechanism against the pandemic. Observation is crucial to embracing any space and exploring within one’s own home is almost a spiritual experience of looking within, decoding your own personality and perhaps finding alternate models of joy lying right there, in your heart or behind the old tainted bottles of hastily discarded expired medicine.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Dunya News’ editorial stance.