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Saturday, 18 January 2014

It's all about ambience

"I never thought I'd hear you say that," I tell my son as we're catching up in his white room, before heading off to lunch. "Run it past me again."

"It's an idea that comes from a French, Marxist, neo-Dada art group," he says, listening to his own words then grinning. "Yeah, I see what you mean. That stuff's starting to trip off my tongue, isn't it?"

"Didn't mean to make you self-conscious," I say. "You got to learn the jargon. Just took me by surprise. Seems only yesterday you were babbling baby talk and pulling Weetabix out your hair. All of a sudden you're Brian Sewell."

"I like him," he says. "Sounds posh but he's a good laugh."

"So what's it about?" I say.

"Psychogeography," he says.

"I had a psycho geography teacher," my sister says. 

"Mad bastard, was he?" says my son, always happy to stroll down conversational side roads. "What did he do?"

"Nothing useful," she says. "Spent all his time talking to the domestic science teachers. So I learned by heart everything he taught us but failed the exam."

"You look like it's still annoying you," he says. 

"It is," she says and seethes quietly for a while.

"So what's it all about?" I ask. "This psychogeography."

"The sudden change of ambience in a street," my son says. "The path of least resistance you take in aimless strolls." 

He scratches his nose. "Kinda how the different parts of a city impose a flow on you, as you wander aimlessly around it." 

"Sounds a bit vague," I say. 

"It's totally vague," he says. "Guy Debord was one of the French Marxists that started it and he got pissed a lot. So maybe it's just drunken rambling. But it's been picked up by more interesting guys, like Will Self and Alan Moore - who wrote Watchmen and V for Vendetta."

"I'm still not getting what you have to do," I say.

"Site, place and content around the Queen's Cross area of Glasgow," he says. "Psychogeography. It's our first art project of the new term. So we've been wandering around, absorbing the ambience like nobody's business."

"We did that sometimes with the kids," my sis says. "We'd take them out and look at the lights and statues and buildings. We called them street furniture."

"Funnily enough we found a couple of old sofas, when we started psycho wandering," he says. "Carried them back to the studio. I fell asleep on one and they painted a moustache on me." 

"Is it sofa, couch or settee?" sis says. "I got laughed at the other day for calling it a settee. That was old-fashioned, they said, and I should call it a couch."

"See that just gets on my tits," my son says. "You can call things anything you want. I'm going to call this project "Ambience: sofa so good.

"Is there a point to it all?" I say.

"You know better than that," he says. "Is there a point to particle physics? Is there a point to people? Alan Moore says magic is art and art is magic, and both come down to "the science of manipulating symbols, words or images to achieve changes in consciousness."

"Do you think we should magic ourselves off to lunch?" my sister says.  

"I do," he says. "I'm going to absorb all the ambience I can get from two fried eggs and a tattie scone."

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