Darryl Chen, 21 07 08

Monthly mag for the city’s homeless, The Pavement, is running a campaign of self-information for London’s rough sleepers. It asks for a mobilization of perhaps the city’s most mobile demographic group to implement an easily updatable signage system. A kind of user-content noticeboard 2.0 that puts its hopes in the power of collective intelligence. Makes sense – who really knows the streets better on a day-to-day basis?It is the stuff of a young Tschumi’s dreams. An alternate reading of urban space and a corresponding notation that sits just below the radar of middle class commuting. A new psychogeography leaping from the boards of student diploma projects to be inscribed 1:1 scale on/in the physical space of the city. Just join the dots and photograph in grainy black and white.

hobo signs
hobo signs


What’s more, the form this ‘city guide’ campaign takes is itself a sardonic jab at urban tourism where the very idea of city-ness has been fetishized for a moneyed elite through HipHotels and Wallpaper pamphlets – a reminder that the global city contains both what we used to call the ‘first’ and ‘third’ worlds; but also that forms of occupation and communication across classes are uncomfortably intertwined.


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  • 1. Old Nick  |  February 22nd, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    So are you saying that being homeless would be more authentic, and street folk more empowered, if they did NOT have a signage system that asserts some control over their environment (fetishized or not) by naming it? This seems counterintuitive to me.

  • 2. Darryl Chen  |  February 24th, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Urban fetishization happens through advertising-driven media like (latter-day) Wallpaper. On the contrary the Pavement campaign was a raw, user-driven way of navigating, coding and reterritorializing urban spaces. It only seems couterintuitive if you misread the post.

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