In philosophy, a Dérive is a French concept meaning an aimless walk, probably through city streets, that follows the whim of the moment. It is sometimes translated as a drift.

French philosopher and Situationist Guy Debord used this idea to try and convince readers to revisit the way they looked at urban spaces. Rather than being prisoners to their daily route and routine, living in a complex city but treading the same path every day, he urged people to follow their emotions and to look at urban situations in a radical new way. This led to the notion that most of our cities were so thoroughly unpleasant because they were designed in a way that either ignored their emotional impact on people, or indeed tried to control people through their very design. The basic premise of the idea is for people to explore their environment ("psychogeography") without preconceptions, to understand their location, and therefore their existence.

More recently in 1992, Sadie Plant wrote in The Most Radical Gesture: The Situationist International in a Post Modern Age: "to dérive was to notice the way in which certain areas, streets, or buildings resonate with states of mind, inclinations, and desires, and to seek out reasons for movement other than those for which an environment was designed. It was very much a matter of using an environment for one's own ends, seeking not only the marvellous beloved by surrealism but bringing an inverted perspective to bear on the entirety of the spectacular world."

It is also a concept used in psychogeographical studies for art collectives like Glowlab and conferences such as Provflux and Psy-Geo-conflux.

Reading List

  • Knabb, Ken (Editor). Situationist International Anthology (Berkeley: Bureau of Public Secrets, 1981).
  • Careri, Francesco. Land&Scape Series: Walkscapes (Barcelona: 2002).

See also

External links


  • Knabb, Ken (Editor). Situationist International Anthology (Berkeley: Bureau of Public Secrets, 1981).