This will be a virtual derive:
Theory of the Dérive, by Guy Debord: Les Lèvres Nues #9 (November 1956)
reprinted in Internationale Situationniste #2 (December 1958)
Translated by Ken Knabb (link here)
ONE OF THE BASIC situationist practices is the dérive [literally: “drifting”], a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.
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. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones.
But the dérive includes both this letting-go and its necessary contradiction: the domination of psychogeographical variations by the knowledge and calculation of their possibilities. In this latter regard, ecological science — despite the narrow social space to which it limits itself — provides psychogeography with abundant data.
The average duration of a dérive is one day, considered as the time between two periods of sleep. The starting and ending times have no necessary relation to the solar day, but it should be noted that the last hours of the night are generally unsuitable for dérives.
My drifting, however, was initiated this morning when I came across this link to the British Library’s blog, The Mechanical Curator: Randomly selected small illustrations and ornamentations, posted on the hour. Rediscovered artwork from the pages of 17th, 18th and 19th Century books. I browsed the links and followed this one:
Expedição portugueza ao Muatiânvua. Descripção da viagem á Mussumba do Muatiânvua … Edição illustrada por H. Casanova. [With plates, including portraits and maps.] vol. 1-3
Author: DIAS DE CARVALHO, Henrique Augusto (Lisboa, 1890)
The image which first caught my eye, from the hundreds of thumbnails on offer at this site, was this one of an egregiously sulky-looking bird:
aka ‘jester’, or Gaukler in German; I found this out from this site, which has been translated with customary inattention to idiomatic English, by
Bing (which gave up, evidently, on many words, and left them untranslated):
‘A beautiful matte black, head, neck, back and the whole bottom engaging, stands by that, Graulich Brown on the internal flag is made white, decorated with a wide, black end edge last four hand – and the consummation scapulars lively off from the bright chestnut coat, the similarly-colored tail, slightly thinner lower back, as well as a broad wing bandage, in opposition to the deep black first flight. The deck spring of the primaries are black, the arm swings brown-black with Brown Endsaume, the other upper deck feather wings dark brown, lighter margins who know under deck spring wing. The eye is nice and Brown…’
The bird is also called Short-tailed eagle (or kite), Bataleur (or Bateleur) eagle (‘tumbler’, or ‘tightrope walker’ in French), the name given by the ornithologist François Le Vaillant. Born in Surinam in 1753, he studied in Metz (where I once lived – a nice situationist coincidence). I found this about him at Wikipedia:
As a traveller in Africa, Le Vaillant tended to describe the African people without prejudice. He shared Rousseau’s idea of the “Noble savage” and condemnation of civilization. He described the beauty of Narina, Khoekhoe woman in Gonaqua named after a flower in terms that were not to be found later in the colonial period. He was infatuated with Narina, and she stopped painting her body with ochre and charcoal and lived with Le Vaillant for many days. When he left, he gave her many presents but she was said to have sunk into deep melancholia.
There’s this lovely image on the same site of this parrot from Le Vaillant’s Histoire naturelle des perroquets, 2 vols, 1801-05, illustrated by Jacques Barraband.
I wondered how accurate an image of the Bateleur eagle the one above was, so did some online searching…
- Bateleur Eagle (NY Public Library, image ID: 820528): from Gustav Mützel (1839-93), ‘The Royal natural history’, Warne 1894-96.
This bookplate doesn’t look much like the Portuguese one: nobler, less grumpy. Digging deeper I came upon this alternative name for the bird:
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia, s.n. mountebank, n. 3: The short-tailed African kite, Helotarsus ecaudatus: so called from its aërial tumbling. (via Finedictionary.com).
The online images at the NYPL led me on to this plate of a collection of Accipitres (diurnal birds of prey):
Bateleur eagle is no. 6
Next was a bird called ‘bucorax’ (or Cazovo, I think the text in the caption to Carvalho’s image reads; it’s not very clear.)
Here it is:
This is from an online edition of the book found via Google booksearch. Mützel has a clearer image (also at the NYPL site, Image ID: 820820) where it’s called Hornrabe, Bucorax Abyssincus Bodd. It’s also called the Ground Hornbill, I discovered.
And now I’ve run out of time. I’ll continue this post next time, with more images of birds, animals, people, places.