The Workshop for Non-Linear Architecture
The Workshop for Non-Linear Architecture (WNLA) was the name taken by a group of experimental artists and psychogeographers active in Britain (sections existed in both Glasgow and London) during the 1990s. Informed to a large degree by the urban practices of the Paris based Lettriste Internationale (1952–57), the workshop focused its practise on developing the lettrist theory of Unitary Urbanism through physical research and behavioural intervention; redefining the psychogeographical terrain of the cityscape in relation to its emotive resistivity.
During the two year 'Psychogeographical Survey of Glasgow' (1992–94) the group concentrated its activity on refining the interplay between the Letterist (and later situationist) techniques of derive and constructed situation. The outcome of which, described in detail in the essay 'Programmed and constructed drifting; the event architectures of Unitary Urbanism' (Viscocity No.3 Glasgow, Jan 1994), highlighted the false separation between these two classic situationist tools and their indivisibility in practice. Borrowing initially from the constraint techniques of the Oulipo, whereby the pure flow of an otherwise unrestricted derive is directed in its apparent randomness (and given an element of control over its protagonists) by the application of parameters; these behavioural algorithms ranged from elaborate 'drifting machines', carried across the terrain and deployed at regular intervals to generate recursive instructions for movement (non-linear feedback loops) to the simple 'anywhere' hitchhiking sign, (a regular sight in the summer of 1993 being held aloft on the westbound pavement of the Great Western Road M8 bridge).
The artist Ralph Rumney (1934–2002), who had known many of the original Parisian letterists, participated in one of the groups derives in London in 1995 and is credited with bringing the activities of the workshop to a wider audience. While it had been assumed the workshop had disbanded shortly after the release of the fourth and final issue of its journal Viscocity, now infamous for having been selected by the K Foundation to announce their 23 year moratorium on all artistic practise, a reading of this journal suggests the moratorium applied to both the K Foundation and to WNLA itself, with the group committing to a total cessation of any and all mediation of their activities until 2018.
British cultural commentator and activist Stewart Home became a champion of their ludic adventurism, including excerpts from the journal (and a tantalising taste of the type of works undertaken) in a series of edited collections published by Serpent's Tail. "The Joker, the incidental game of urban poker", was printed in Mind Invaders and describes a game of poker played between cities from playing cards found in the street. "St Andrews Arena" appeared in the collection Suspect Device and narrates one particular derive that took place in Glasgow in 1993. Other references to the workshop's activities have appeared in articles by Home, notably in the journal Variant.
While the Workshop For A Non-Linear Architecture has received little press this is due to the WNLA's indifference towards media coverage rather than a matter of policy. Indeed, the WNLA text 'The Joker: A Game of Incidental Urban Poker' included in the anthology describes exactly the sort of 'unusual' activity - teams of players scavenging city streets for playing cards that make up the hands in games of poker which go on for months - that might receive coverage in the press if those involved had the slightest interest in publicising their activities".
Notes and references
- Home, Stewart. "There's no success like failure", Variant, Volume 2 Number 1 (Winter 1996), p18
Home, Stewart. "Mondo Mythopoesis", Variant, Volume 2 Number 2 (Spring 1997), p7
- Home, Stewart. "Mind Bending, Swamp Fever & The Ideological Vortex". Public Netbase, Vienna. 29 April 1998.
- Mind Invaders: A Reader in Psychic Warfare, Cultural Sabotage And Semiotic Terrorism (Serpent's Tail London, 1997).
- Suspect Device: Hard-Edged Fiction (Serpent's Tail, London 1998).
- The situationist website, containing many of the original translations undertaken by wnla of the lettriste bulletin Potlatch.