How do you define a Libidinal Circuit?


The terminology of ‘Libidinal Circuit’ seems to suggest something sexual because of the psychoanalytical etymology but to me, pleasure drives now seem to lean towards more tangibly commercial outcomes. I think this is because we’re in a permanent paradox where technology ensures an extreme and simultaneous connectedness / disconnectedness.


I suppose, in the context of modern city centres, I imagine it to be some form of pathway or landscape designed to lead walkers to predestined areas of planned pleasure; more often than not for shopping. Advertising constantly tells us that the desire for objects is more sexual than the desire for people - I don't think it has ever been quite believed on such a wide scale as it is now. We live in an era that deliberately blurs the lines between objects and people too so maybe it's just two ideas coming together in one horrific full circle.


Can you tell us a little about An Impossible Dérive and how it intersects with the theories which underpin Libidinal Circuits?

Dérive is French for "drift" but is now a word used commonly in the theories of psychogeography. It refers to taking an unplanned and unmapped journey into an environment or zone, allowing the aesthetics and architecture of the space to guide and control the walker's destination. So, the film is really about questioning the ever-changing landscape of Liverpool and the effects that this has on the will of the city walker as well as the city as a whole. I imagine the purists of psychogeography may object to the dérive technique being used in such a general way though the ideas are addressing something far more pressing than landscape nostalgia which is the aesthetic homogenisation of a city centre.

But I think, in terms of psychogeography, it's only a broad catchment of an idea being used in order to discuss more local evolutions of space and urban landscapes (all of which are relevant to my own reading of what Libidinal Circuits actually are anyway).


As a life-long locally based artist, in what ways did this Dérive introduce new places/feelings/thoughts about the city?


The actual technique of the dérive was used to find the locations in which to film though it's still not quite in its pure form as I no doubt was unconsciously thinking of finding relevant spaces to film in rather than simply drifting. The actual footage is not from the dérives themselves because, as has been pointed out several times, there's a contradiction between the point of going on such a style of walk and watching footage from said walk. I think the most interesting thing to come from the walks themselves though was a personal shift from pessimism to a slightly more optimistic outlook in spite of the film still being suspicious in its questioning of the general developments within the city centre.


Conversely, what things did this Dérive affirm about your understanding of Liverpool?


When I first started, the film was purely pessimistic, spurred on predominantly by the closure of MelloMello, the announcement that The Kazimier is closing at the end of the year, and the questionable development plans that are still being proposed for the Wolstenholme Square and Lime Street areas.


They just seem to be applying the same blue-print of design onto virtually every street (commercial spaces on the ground floor for big chains, flats above for students only etc.) and the film still rightly questions this practice alongside the effects on the walker of having such a rigid topographical identity as a backdrop. But more positives came out of it than I thought; for example, behind one of the empty streets in which I filmed and took 35mm stills lie the streets that are up for the Turner Prize this year whilst the empty docks and warehouses in the film played host to this year's Sound City festival. There are plenty of ways to redevelop the city's empty spaces outside.


The Libidinal Circuits conference takes place at FACT and University of Liverpool from 8 - 10 July, with an accompanying exhibition of work in FACTLab.

Images from Adam Scovell, An Impossible Dérive, 2015.