KISS II Microfest: Psychogeography in Kunming

Last weekend the Kunming International Situationist Society (KISS) organized the second edition of the KISS microfest, a practice in psychogeography or dérive.

What and who is KISS?

KISS was founded in early 2019 by curator and artist Luofei, researcher Sean Duffy and myself. It started with an initial interest in rereading Situationist theory in a Chinese context. We aim to examine this neo-Marxist theory in the (supposedly) Marxist setting of Chinese society. A society that is at the same time increasingly capitalist and consumerist. We started with informal gatherings. We would discuss the Situanionist International, review books, and ultimately went on long dérives around the city.

In June 2019 we organized the first Microfest, more or less on request of the art community in Kunming who were curious about our exploits. During this first public event, we introduced Situationist concepts, screened a film, staged an artist talk by Luofei and a performance by Ignat Kormiltsev with self-made electronic music instruments . The society consists of international and Chinese participants, making it an important part of my goal to create cultural international exchange.

KISS I Microfest

Was the first Microfest fairly theoretical with a fairly passive audience, the second on was all about practice. We asked everyone who attended to get involved, and as such there were no spectators, only participants. What follows is a report of the event.

KISS II Microfest

On Saturday, December 5 at 6pm, about 15 people gather in the cozy event space of Wheatfield Bookstore. Before everyone arrives we have moved the furniture around and placed various musical instruments around the room. Participants are asked to use these in the music performance later in the evening.

Introduction

We start with an introduction of the concept of psychogeography. Sean Duffy talks about its meaning in Situationism, but also in contemporary society:

To seek a more authentic experience of surroundings that is absent of technological filters and machines and that undermines the logic and structure of our built environments.

Sean mentions Henri Lefebvre (1901-1991) who established the concept of ‘the right to the city’:

The poetry of everyday life vs a mediocre, entertainment and consumption-based lifestyle

Instructions for our psychogeography practice today come from Guy Debord (1931-1994), founder of the Situationist International and author of the Theory of the Dérive:

In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there.

Practice: Psychogeography

After this introduction we move on to the actual practice. We have opted to use the Oblique Strategies for our psychogeography.

Oblique Strategies (subtitled Over One Hundred Worthwhile Dilemmas) is a card-based method for promoting creativity jointly created by musician/artist Brian Eno and multimedia artist Peter Schmidt, first published in 1975. Each card offers a challenging constraint intended to help artists (particularly musicians) break creative blocks by encouraging lateral thinking.

We ask all participants to drop their mobile phone in a box and three groups go on their way, each carrying a set of the Oblique Strategies cards.

Upon returning, we have a brief discussion about our experiences. After, several artists do individual performances. Finally, we finish the event with a sound performance. Again, we use the Oblique Strategies as a guideline. Here is a video with an impression of the event:

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