The original text can be read here.
Certau’s text “Walking in the city” is taking us into different layers, sediments of how to interpret the city, and the development and planning of the city. The whole text is built on a perambulatory way of relating to the city.
An individual experience, part of everyday practice, is the starting point for Certeau to talk about complex issues around cities and how they work.
He relates the city to experience we all can recognize; walking in the city. By starting in the 107th floor of the World Trade building, he enters the topic of the city from a bird’s view, going into the visual and aesthetic of the city, before coming down to the city. The whole text is written like a walk where he changes perspective, discovers something new and makes twists and turns. As he is walking he don’t have time to dwell too long, before something else is catching his attention.
The practice of everyday life is here closely connected with the usage of space, how we use space in our practice of everyday. He says in the text “… spatial usage creates the determining condition of social life.” (p.105) This is where city planners, developers and others plan the use of the city, but how it is working is determinate through the citizens’ use and intervention in the urban space. In interventions in public space it can be essential to analyze how the space is used and how that affect social life. To install an artwork in public space, will effect the physicality of the space and therefore also the use of the space.
He use a part of the text to talk about urbanization, built on efficiency and profit that creates a waste, a segment in the city that is excluded. I understand this as groups of the citizens that are lacking access to the basic services of the society. Further on he referrer to the conflict of interest that are present in the city, which can be related to Chantal Mouffe and politics of agnostics. He is also talking about how the idea about the catastrophe is putting the population in panic as a way to administer the city. Also how surveillance control by becoming part of everyday rule.
An interesting part of the text is when he connects memory to place. Language is a reference use many places in the text, here memory of place is directly connected to language. The city is organized by names of streets and districts. Memory is connected to something that has been, by representation through the physical remains and traces. He brings also in how we relate to space in dreams, without being there physical. It shows that we can relate to space through memory and language. Walking in the city is actually walking in the memory, among phantoms of the past and legends, history. “In fact, the memory is the anti-museum: it cannot be localized.”
This layers of meaning and memories connected to place / spaces make the experience of public space individual and internal. It is a place where one relates to oneself, through experience and memories in relation to others. A walk in the city is not only a walk through the urban sediments, but also through the human tissue of the city.