virtualDavis

\ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs\ Blogger, storyteller, flâneur. G.G. Davis, Jr's alter ego…
Twitter
@virtualDavis
Facebook
virtualDavis

Washington Square by Andre Kertesz


Washington Square by Andre Kertesz


Washington Square by Andre Kertesz

André Kertész

Washington Square
New York, January 9, 1954
Gelatin-silver print
vintage print
12.7 x 9.2 cm
via Fotomuseum Winterthur

There are days for thoughtful ruminations and days for doodles, days for vignettes and verses, but today is a day for inspiration. And few words. This enrapturing black and white photograph of a few walkers in a snowy Washington Square park by André Kertész (Andre Kertesz)
 speaks volumes. Quietly. About meandering. Flaneurs. Winter. Voyeurism. Crisp, clean, contrast. And yearning. Wondering. Deep observation. Possibly even deep listening… Do you hear the singing underneath?

I’ll leave you with an observation borrowed from John Bailey’s February 22, 2010 post, “From My Window”: The Late Work of André Kertész and Josef Sudek.

Kertész, in Paris and New York City, and [Josef] Sudek in Prague, spent many of their most productive years in the best tradition of the street photographer cum flaneur. Yet in substantive ways both remained loners. (The ASC)

Re-Cycling: Le Flaneur by Hermes

Le Flâneur Town Bike By Hermès

Posh wheels for well-heeled velo-flaneurs!

Aloof. Alone. Leisurely. Urban. Introducing Le Flaneur by Hermes…

Really? Really!

Just when you thought flanerie (or at least the flaneur) was sacred. Or too niche to warrant much attention from the mass market. You were wrong.

Sorry. It’s time for recycling cycling!

Gastronomy of the Eye

Leave it to Hermès – purveyors of luxe French apparel, accessories and perfumery – to recycle the mystique of flanerie. As a bike. With a price tag north of $10k. You read that right. That’s a bit spendy for this flaneur, but if you’re in the market for a pedal powered Rolls Royce Phantom (or its carbon fiber equivalent), then you’re in luck.

Le Flaneur by Hermes

You want to knock around town in style but still burn a few calories? You might give Les Vélos d’Hermès a spin. Specifically, Le Flâneur, a town bike named for that wonderful French concept of a kind of loosely directed, multicurious wandering about Balzac defined it as “the gastronomy of the eye”. Le Flâneur combines an understated luxury–bull calf leather grips and saddle that will age to a fine patina–with technical touches like a lightweight carbon-fiber frame and hydraulic disc brakes. One doesn’t always need to suffer for beauty. (Forbes)

I’m certain that’s the first time I’ve read a bicycle review in Forbes.

Le Flâneur Sportif d’Hermès

Now if that elegant crème anglaise steed is too effete for your tastes, you can rest easy. Le Flaneur is also available in a sleeker model appropriately camouflaged for nocturnal flaneurs.

Le Flaneur by Hermes is available in a sporty version too...

Le Flaneur by Hermes is available in a sporty version too…

Famous for its silk scarves and ties, Hermès… [is diversifying with a] duo of handsome carbon fiber bicycles… Le Flâneur d’Hermès and Le Flâneur sportif d’Hermès. Each will feature a shock-absorbing frame, belt-driven transmission and hydraulic disc brakes, as well as a choice of eight or 11 gears integrated into the rear wheel hub. (FreshnessMag.com)

What luck!

Is Le Flaneur by Hermes Art or Bike?

While an inveterate and unabashed flaneur, I’m not sure what to make of these posh toys/tools. It would be criminal to pretend that Le Flâneur sportif is not a beautiful bike. It is. Minimalist, elegant and proud. I’d seriously consider hanging one on my wall.

Francois Dore, managing director of Hermes’ Horizons department, stated,”We set out to make a real bike, not a decorative object. It had to be simple, efficient, easy to use, pleasant and elegant”, according to WWD. (The Style of the Case)

Right. It’s not wall art. It’s a real bike, a tool for flaneurs on urban safaris. Besides, is a $10,000 honestly any more more ostentatious than a turtle on a leash? No. But then again, I’m not a turtle strolling flaneur…

The Flâneur Lives Underground

The Flâneur Still Lives! (Credit: Culturethèque)

The Flâneur Still Lives! (Credit: Culturethèque)

I lead off this chilly morning with a hat tip to the good folks at Culturethèque for their flâneur-London-tube post, “The Flâneur Still Lives!“, which hit the interwebs last Sunday. More flâneurial paean than anything else, Mélissa’s short tribute leads off with this 0h-so-excellent mashup borrowed above.

Bravo! I shamelessly covet Mélissa’s graphic. (Until I discover otherwise, I’ll credit her for this homemade remix of popular iconography. And I’ll inevitably awaken at 4:00am with my own derivative collage. I’ll be unable to sleep until I jot a few notes, doodle a sketch, liberate the idea from my sleepless mind…)

The character emerged from the concrete of 19th Paris… a lazy yet intelligent person who strolls around… a particular personality who loves their city. That’s right, not a striking form of patriotism, just a genuine love of their city. Baudelaire… take it away: “To see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world – impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define.” (Culturethèque)

Baudelaire par lui même

Baudelaire par lui même (Credit: Wikipedia)

Despite the obligatory Baudelaire citation and a nod to Benjamin, there’s little enduring here except the jolly image. Or, perhaps I judge too hastily. Meandering a city via public transportation offers endless fodder for a flâneur. While I’m drawn less to the conductor’s announcements and more to the diverse parade of humanity swimming around and past me, I too savor public transportation. Somehow staring is more acceptable on a subway or a bus, especially if you allow your eyes to glaze, unfocused. This is a skill mastered early on in a commuter’s maturation. And it serves the flâneur well.

So, Mélissa, thank you for the troglodytic immersion and the flâneurial London tube image above. I hope you’ll excuse my carrying your idea forward. Soon…

Borderer’s Flaneur

Borderer's "Flaneur"

Borderer’s “Flaneur”

Fit for some Friday flânerie? I’ve come across the perfect weekly wrap-up to entice fellow flâneurs (and flâneuses) to abandon toil early for a plunge into the pleasure palace waiting beyond the office doors.

If you’re deadline-married and unable (or unwilling, alas) to veer from your tasks, so be it. But if you’re free to wonder and wander I’d like to introduce you to Borderer’s “Flaneur”, a retired broadcaster’s “shattered prose which goes under the generic description ‘poetry’“.

I encourage you to read the entire poem, but to tempt you away from your deadlines here are a few amuse gueules from Borderer’s “Flaneur”.

I am sitting in a bistro, my legs are crossed,
Watching the swing of passing skirts.

I am the one the teachers cursed, smiling,
“He just does not apply himself!”

[...]

I wrote a story of 16,600 words.
I wondered what had possessed me.

I prefer to scribble out poetry,
Finished in a single sitting.

I never learned to march in step;

[...]I have the time to contemplate these things,
As I stroll without a goal.

I will kiss you, whoever you are;
I inflict poetry only to seduce.

[...]
I am a stroller on the sidewalks;
I know everything is forgotten.

I know, in a world where everything ends,
I cannot waste my time, so

Take my hand along the boulevards;
Let us embrace in every doorway.

Are you seduced, fellow flaneurs? The workaday week will wait. This invitation will not… Enjoy!

Schopenhauer’s Flâneur

San Francisco: The Painted Ladies (visualflaneur.com)

San Francisco: The Painted Ladies (visualflaneur.com)

“Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, Studies in Pessimism

Perhaps a flâneur is an exception to Schopenhauer’s observation. Or tries to be. A flâneur tries to amplify his/her field of vision by infiltrating the lives of others. The visual flâneur who illustrated Schopenhauer’s words above shares his (her?) pen and ink watercolors at visualflaneur.com, a simple but enticing river of illustrations “inspired by aimless ramblings of the streets”. Think of it as an evolving digital picture book for adults.

On this site, I continue the tradition of the flaneur; explore the streets and their people, follow my whims and reflect on my findings with pen, pencil and watercolor as a ‘visual’ flaneur. (visual flaneur)

Mission Dolores (Credit: visual flaneur)

Mission Dolores (visualflaneur.com)

I don’t know the visual flâneur though I feel like I do. His images are familiar as if he illustrated many of the picture books of my childhood. As if I’ve been in many of these scenes before. While his eye is trained upon San Francisco most of the time, my affinity exceeds fondness for a city that has long pulled me.

The illustrations are playful and carefree but tinged with mortality. Less Pollyanna postcard; more urban reality amuse-gueule. Temptations to ramble further. Perhaps this is the finest gift of flâneurs’ literary and artistic bounty: an open invitations to flâner!

In “How to become a flaneur” the visual flâneur tempts the reader/viewer with a reminder that the richness of flânerie is free to all, everywhere, all the time.

I believe that life is lived at it’s fullest when we open up to experience the world. And there is a lot of world. All around us. You don’t even have to go far. It’s right there! (visual flaneur)

While Schopenhauer is likely correct, flânerie stretches our field of vision. If only for a while. And certainly stretching is superior to limiting, no?

Robot Flâneur

How do flâneurs indulge their habit when confined to their studies, jockeying their bureaus?

We read. We write. We shuffle and curate photographs. But sometimes — jonesing uncontrollably for a brief flânerie fix — we dive into the digital arcades. The popularity of my recent post on cyberflânerie has prompted me to share a secret pleasure.

Robot Flâneur, a Google Street View "explorer".

Sometimes, while I’m supposed to be massaging meter or decluttering stories, I plug in the Robot Flâneur and savor the guilty pleasure of Parisian flânerie. Or Mexico City. Or Tokyo… Robot Flâneur is a visual “explorer” based upon the magic of Google Street View. Just pick one o the nine cities around the world and enjoy the voyeurism. But not for long! Remember, there’s all that work to do…

This digital indulgence, courtesy of London-bassed writer and technologist James Bridle (booktwo.org), is simple but intriguing. And not a little habit forming.

“Google Street View is both the view from the machine (from the car, the Ballardian view-of-our-times) and the view of the machine (the way the machine sees). Overlayed with data augmentation, from a non-human-natural perspective (the roof of the car), slightly lensed (fish-eyed), wholly networked.” ~ James Bridle

I can hear your voice vibrating through the internets: “Wonky!” And you’re right. Sort of. But Bridle may not be the best one to articulate the sizzle in his “web flâneur” steak. It’s siren call is really enticing, especially because it’s only an effortless mouse click away most of the time. But don’t take my word for it.

Utterly useless but strangely compelling site… The idea is simple. You find yourself in a random London location in Google’s Street View. Thirty seconds later you’re teleported to another random location. That’s it… [And yet] Robot Flâneur is oddly addictive. ~ Matt Brown (Londonist)

Take a scenic vacation sans pants… Each slideshow’s interactive shots have been hand-picked to most accurately represent the local urban culture, and’re navigable using keyboard shortcuts, which’ll inevitably end up getting you lost in an area where you’ll have to roll up your computer’s windows and lock the doors. (Thrillist)

Robot Flaneur… allows users the experience of a casual stroll around famed cities… Though simplistic, its voyeuristic capabilities prove addictive… For those of you with shorter attention spans, new images are refreshed every 30 seconds, with the option to zoom in, zoom out, or skip around. Just consider this the ultimate staycation. ~ Laura Feinstein (PSFK)

What are you waiting for? Give it a try! (But remember to drop a crumb trail…)

What is a Flâneur?

Charles Baudelaire, flâneur originale

Charles Baudelaire,
flâneur originale

A flâneur, according to Webster, is “an idle man-about-town”. It’s pretty evident that a man who was compelled to log words and definitions day and night knew little about the art of flânerie (flâneury), French for strolling. For the flâneur is not merely a loafer gadding his short life away.

He or she is a creature so enthralled by the world that the internal yields to the external, so fascinated with the other that the self is temporarily forgotten. The flâneur is misunderstood by the non-flâneur who fails to recognize the endeavor in his art. For the flâneur is indeed striving toward a goal, making a concerted effort to become anonymous in the crowd — an undetected voyeur — and to sate a philosophical, an aesthetic and an almost spiritual fascination with the scene around him/herself.

“For the perfect flâneur, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow. To be away from home, yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the center of the world, yet to remain hidden from the world—such are a few of the slightest pleasures of those independent, passionate, impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define.” ~ Charles Baudelaire

The flâneur seeks communion with the other, and this requires a receptivity and a yielding to the bustle of the urban crowd.

“[Flâneurs] are opening their eyes and ears to the scene around them. They are not treating the street as an obstacle course to be negotiated; they are opening themselves up to it. They are wondering about the lives of those they pass, constructing narratives for them, they are eavesdropping on conversations, they are studying how people dress and what new shops and products there are (not in order to buy anything—just in order to reflect on them as important pieces of evidence of what human beings are about)… While cities bring together huge numbers of people, paradoxically they also separate them from each other. The goal of flâneur[s] is to recover a sense of community… To do this, they let down their guard, they empathize with situation they see. There’s a constant risk they will be moved, saddened, excited – and fall in love.” ~ Alain de Botton

“Flâneurs don’t have any practical goals in mind, aren’t walking to get something, or to go somewhere. What flâneurs are doing is looking. Opening their eyes and ears to the scene around them, wondering about the lives of those they pass, constructing narratives about the houses, eavesdropping on conversations, studying how people dress and street life in general. Flâneurs relish what they discern and discover.” ~ Alan Fletcher (The Art of Looking Sideways)

“Flânerie… is immersion in an anonymous, spectatorial gaze that gives license to wandering and observing… It is an aesthetic action, art form, and social phenomenon… The flâneur… possesses a way of seeing the world and being in the world that intrinsically reveals meaningful, social commentary.” Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology

“The deepest problems of modern life derive from the claim of the individual to preserve the autonomy and individuality of his existence in the face of overwhelming social forces, of historical heritage, of external culture, and of the technique of life…” ~ Georg Simmel (The Metropolis and Mental Life)

Sometimes it’s best to step aside and let others swing at the piñata. Though none of the definitions/ruminations above precisely encapsulate my personal brand of flânerie, taken together they come close.

“I quote others only the better to express myself.” ~ Michel de Montaigne

My own flâneur précis remains a work in progress, but for now you’re welcome to meander through my piñata swings: virtualDavis: a Flâneur in the Digital Age.

Updates for What is a Flâneur?

Just another listless dreamer...

Just another listless dreamer… (virtualDavis)

The earliest version of this page was coded into existence with clumsy, labored HTML around January 2000. It has dilated and contracted over the years like a stubborn accordion. From time to time I stuff in another tune, then — a month or a year later — I manage to pull it out again, usually adapting it into a standalone blog post (most can be found in the Flâneur category). What remains are a few of the most helpful sources I have found. If you’re looking for a source that has vanished from this page, try using the search function and you can most likely find what you want in a blog post. If not, contact me and I’ll try to help you out.

%d bloggers like this: