The poetics of encounter: Humans, Minerals and Stars

Text: Bill Psarras © 2015

Magnifying the encounter for the hybrid flaneur: Collisions as sculptures  

We walk, we breathe – muscles become mobilized and a whole bio-activity takes place within us in real-time. Senses are activated; initiating a sensory melody with emotional implications, which is extended and is being shaped by everything. For the artist-flaneur not only for the 20th but also for the 21st century – what I call the hybrid flaneur/flaneuse, walking entails the element of encounter. The encounter in the city and its levels is poetic, political and metaphorically a geological process. I would like to bring into discussion the above image of a mineral – the fluorite – scientifically a mineral form of calcium fluoride which takes its name from the Latin ‘fluere’ – meaning ‘to flow’. Steps constitute the spatial and embodied medium that brings us into the encountering plateau. The sensory encounter is articulated between the walker and the streets, the humans – between enlivened and non-human elements. It is a whole world of visual stimuli, mixed temporal soundscapes, olfactory atmospheres and tactile encounters that changes and re-updates itself within milliseconds. If we imagine the process of encounter as a collision with various qualitative and quantitative parameters – in other words as a sculpture of interaction – then the produced reaction of the walker both intellectually and physically can be described as a temporal sculpture. In minerals like fluorite, the time scale goes back to almost 200 million years when hot water containing fluorine ‘was forced up from within the Earth‘. The encounter can be found when ‘the brine reached the calcium rich, limestone bedrock, fluorite crystals formed along the walls of fractures and voids in the rock‘ (Ilinois State Museum: online).

Borrowing from the filmic thinking, the encounter of the flaneur with the city in various levels can be frozen in time. It can be paused and reveal various poetics and affects; almost in a spiritual way as with the immersive video environments of Bill Viola. In his large scale video installation of multiple projections Five Angels for the Millennium (2001), a human figure enters in extreme slow motion in the water revealing an affective, aesthetic aspect of world’s unconscious – what Thrift (2004: 72) calls as ‘a mix of unnatural naturalism and magical realism‘. It is the magnification of that moment human figure approaches the surface of the water, showing a spatial, sensory and emotional space of encounter. It constitutes an action that will produce a re-action; a collision with strong implications of a constant inbetweeness. The encounter for the flaneur in the city resembles the formation of minerals millions of years ago – it resembles the approaching figure in Viola’s works and even the violent collision of stars out in the space. His/her walking style develops an intellectual, sensory and emotional friction with human and non-human elements within the urban landscape. Every moment – every single encounter with the next stimulus forms once again a metaphorical collision of stars, a formation of aesthetic minerals in the intellectual plateau of his/her exploration. Every time the walker/flaneur initiates a tactile friction with the asphalt, a whole new universe of potential encounters starts developing its aspects like branches in the becoming geography of everyday city (also Psarras, 2015). Learning from the formation of minerals, the intellectual geology becomes a filter for contemporary hybrid flaneur/flaneuse not only to observe distant formations but to go with others into fruitful collisions with the urban in order to give his/her sensory experience as significant element in the production of intellectual minerals. A collective urban mineralogy with not only poetic but also political implications.


  • Thrift, N. (2004). ‘Intensities of feeling: Towards a spatial politics of affect’ Geografiska Annaler, 86B(1), pp. 57–78.
  • Psarras, B. (2015) Emotive Terrains: Exploring the emotional geographies of city through walking as art, senses and embodied technologies, PhD Thesis, Goldsmiths University of London.
  • Ilinois State Museum – Gallery page – Fluorite formation (online)
Fluorite| Hardin Co., Illinois, USA © The Arkenstone [from]

Fluorite| Hardin Co., Illinois, USA © The Arkenstone [from]

Bill Viola - Five Angels for the Millennium: Ascending Angel ©

Bill Viola – Five Angels for the Millennium: Ascending Angel ©

Stars colliding in the milky way (Pic from internet ©)

Stars colliding in the milky way (Pic from internet ©)

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