...the visonary experience arises from the black and white surface of printed signs, from the closed and dusty volume that opens with a flight of forgotten words; fantasies are carefully deployed in the hushed library, with its columns of books, with its titles aligned on shelves to form a tight  enclosure, but within confines that also liberate impossible worlds. The imaginary now resides between the book and the lamp.

Michel Foucault "Fantasia of the library" 1967

    .                 .  .                            .
a sample  collection of 65 books on Amsterdam which hold psycho-geographic quotes from the collection of Tjebbe van Tijen
click one of the book backs above the red points for sample quotes (still only in Dutch)

books as interfaces for towns  
towns as interfaces for books  

an interactive installation by Tjebbe van Tijen

Psycho-geography is the art that tries to record and understand the influence of the outer environment on the human mind and vice versa. Literary psycho-geography is the expression of this phenomena in literature, whereby literature is taken in its widest possible sense: any writing that manages to capture the influence of a particular part of a city or landscape on the human mind, or a person's projection of inner feelings or moods onto the outer environment. Well versed literary texts, poetry, novels or theatre plays, but also popular fiction, comic books, journalistic writing, songs, films, official reports and advertisement slogans, all these can have fragments or passages that capture 'psycho-geographic moments' in descriptive text. All these scattered text fragments, when put together, will make it possible to 'read' the life story of the (city) landscape, to 'map' it's changes of atmosphere and mood. Books make this liaison with the past possible, they are an interface to learn about a town. This relation can also be reversed: learning about books and their authors by drifting through the city landscape.

These short psycho-geographic text fragments form the basis for the interactive installation. The quotes will be dramatised by actors reading them and artists illustrating them with computer graphics based on image material from the same epoch as the text fragments. This will result in a big quantity of audio-visual sequences that can be accessed by choosing books from a bookshelf and 'reading' the quotes on an electronic table, that literary mirrors the moods of the text. An electronic chamber screen will display the context of these book passages in time, space and atmosphere. Each user will make her or his own peregrination through this multitude of choices. In this way it becomes possible to experience and compare, through time, the life of two cities at opposite sites of the globe: Tokyo and Amsterdam. Contrasting cities, the one a macro-polis, possibly the largest city of the world, the other a mini-polis, a world village.

The interactive installation 'A literary psycho-geography of Tokyo and Amsterdam' could well start as an exhibition that can be seen in both cities on the occasion of a special cultural event, but it could also become a much more permanent facility in the town hall, municipal museum, city archive or main library. The needed collection of books, quotes, audio-visual sequences and digital interactive maps can, over time, be extended, thus becoming both a specialist research tool for academics, town politicians and planners and a reference point for all those citizens who want to learn how, over different generations, their fellow citizens were experiencing their living environment. It can be a guiding tool also in the never ending debate on cities: what is worthwhile to retain, what needs to be changed.


Flowchart related to ground plan

The installation consists of two mockup rooms, as on a film set,  facing each other. One room is in Japanese (left) the other in Dutch style (right). In each one there are book cases (6) on the wall with approximate 300 books. The books have special bookmarks that point to quotes in which the landscapes and moods of the two cities, over several centuries, are described. When, on the reading table (8), a page is opened, related moving images are projected on the ceiling (1) and will reflect in the mirroring top on the table (8), while at the same time audio sequences with narrated text and city soundscapes will be played. On the chamber screen (7) time-, space- and mood maps of one's wandering through the texts of the books will be displayed. Parrallel with the quotes choosen the atmospheric light seen through the windows (4/5) will change. 



description of functioning of installation


1 Ceiling/Back projection screen

2 Data projector

3 Changing atmosphere lightprojector

4 Backdrop for (3)

5 Window that gives a view on (4)

6 Book shelves

7 Chamber screen with back projection

8 Low/High mirroring sensor table

9 Cushion/Chair

10 Tatami mat/Wooden floor

Flowchart related to side view

The project can be realised in several steps, from simple to complex, each step resulting in a usable product:

Visual database of books with psycho-geographic quotes (in a Japanese, Dutch and English, version) that can be accessed over the Internet, with the possibility for the public to directly add new books and quotes, thus creating a shared body of knowledge about the two cities.

Translation of a selection of these quotes into the three languages, adding these translations to the database, making this accessible over the Internet, including references to availability of these books in public libraries in the two cities.

Classifying and mapping the psycho-geographic quotes and finding and processing the specific visual and audio material that illustrates space, time and mood of these quotes. In this process archivists and artists will work together to create the hundreds of very brief audio-visual sequences that form the basis for the final installation. This material can be made available in public libraries or museums in the two cities.

Making of the final interactive installation with the two rooms, books, bookshelves and mirror table (the book as an interface for the town). These installations can be made available in both cities at the same time. Copies of these installations in a more condensed form can be made for travelling exhibitions, fairs and other purposes, including CD-ROM versions.

Using the collection of narrated psycho-geographic quotes to make a mobile version of the Tokyo and Amsterdam installations by combining a pocket size Geographic Position System (GPS) with a palmtop computer  and CD-ROM player. While one wanders through the city psychological hot spot maps will be displayed and narrated quotes will play at the spots indicated on the screen of the palm computer in your hand (the town as an interface for books). The same system could also be used by groups: walking, cycling, in a car or on a boat.

This project is a fusion of different art forms, disciplines and crafts: history of Japanese and Dutch literature, radio drama (narrating texts), art history, topographic iconology, architecture, urban design, psychology, cartography, computer graphics, interface-, stage- and furniture design, database technology, electronic sensing, hardware and software integration