La Dérive is the French “drift”

You’ll probably smile with the concept of “Dérive” (Drift) –érive – a “revolutionary strategy” invented by French guys in the fifties :

It is an unplanned journey through a landscape, usually urban, in which participants drop their everyday relations and “let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there”“.

They talk about “studying the terrain”, “emotional disorientation”, “potential creation of situations”.

Well, you don’t need a theory to wander in a city, right? But it means something though :

  1. You have to walk – let the car somewhere, because a car means obedience : follow roads and rules and traffic lights.
  2. You have to be proactive. La Dérive is a constant decision. It’s not to wander. Your antennas are opened, you watch, walk, decide, take oblique paths, little streets, underground passages.
  3. You can study the city (psychogeography), or make pictures, of look for inspiration, miss/mister poet!
  4. As situationnists say, you may be ready for situations. Talk with an old lady on a bench. Question an antique dealer. Buy a splendid old book/painting…

Of course, I think of America. This country (and its cities) is not that old, and it’s so big that many Europeans feel lost in the USA, from Lost Angeles to the smallest cities. It’s all made for cars! How to wander in any city when you don’t have an 13th Century church to visit, and old streets like in Genova, Budapest or Edimburg?…

Without the possibility of drifing La Dérive, we old continent inhabitants are a bit frustrated.

This led me to Le Flâneurâneur – “from the French noun flâneur, means “stroller”, “lounger”, “saunterer”, or “loafer”.”. Which one is correct?

It’s not about onlooking, gawking, tourisming. These guys are like zombies, right? They follow.

No : Le Flâneur decides to lose time. It’s about curiosity. Decisions. Parks and arcades, moving along with a camera, or a notebook and a pen. It’s intelligence and focusing, freedom and disobedience (of following roads), having an own rhythm. It helps you to think. “A process of navigating erudition” (Taleb). It’s the opposite of tourism.

We French like “to have a mind to our own”, to oppose this “form of decadence”, against effective time, money, shopping and other capitalist activities.

La Place Furstenberg is a very quiet place in Saint-Germain des Prés. Like “out of time”. Delacroix worked here. It’s the last scene of Martin Scorcese’s Age of Innocence. It’s in the core of Paris, lost in a middle of small streets… In these streets, you can almost breathe the long history of the city. And there’s no way you can park your car there!

Walk. Walk along little sinuous Middle Age streets. You’ll maybe hear echoes of the French Revolution, oui oui!

“Ah, ça ira, ça ira, ça ira!”.Ça_Ira

When you are in Paris with someone, do the Furstenberg test. It’s not the Eiffel tower, there’s nothing really to watch. It’s just a mood, out of cars and tourists. Watch your guest, that’s all.

Shopping, stopping, asking where to go now, watching? What did he do?

Tool :

What is La Dérive in other places, in creativity, writing, in life? How (and what) to disobey to find inspiration? How to change gear (from car to feet)? What for? Have you thought about what to change (lever) or stop (button) or watch (dial) to change your point of view and become more aware of what’s happening? Do you need to create “situations”, new layouts to invent inventing invention?

Thanks for reading!




5 thoughts on “La Dérive is the French “drift”

  1. geul February 6, 2018 / 9:33 pm

    I think the term “flaneur” is bound by place and time and cannot be easily translated; however, no doubt each place-time will have a counterpart. For example, if you were to go to Austin, Texas, I think the counterpart would be “slacker.” There is also a film by Richard Linklater (Austinite) called Slacker.

    a l’egard de “a “revolutionary strategy” invented by French guys in the fifties”

    je me demand s’il reste quelque chose qu’ils n’ont pas invente…

    Liked by 1 person

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