Proteoscope » sal randolph The Blog of Proteus Gowanus Thu, 12 Nov 2015 16:51:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 From the Bureau of Unknown Destinations: How to Unknow Sat, 17 Mar 2012 20:21:01 +0000 It’s ideal to start from a central station or one that has as many lines as possible. Your goal is to assign yourself a destination in a way that keeps it a surprise.  Here are a few ways you might go about doing that. adjust, remix, & invent as you desire.

All of these techniques work best when you take the results seriously. What if your destination is a place you’ve been before? Sometimes the familiar is the most unknown. What if you’re afraid it will be a boring place? Unbore it. Let it unbore you. What if you’d rather go to the next stop on the line, or the last, or someplace you have a yen for? You can go on an ordinary excursion at any time—this is your chance to unknow.

Yes, it’s a kind of game. So play hard.

1) Shuffle up

If your station offers free printed timetables (as those in new york do), gather them all up, shuffle, and pick one randomly.  Decide in advance how to choose among the destinations on the timetable (go all the way to the end of the line, or halfway there, or roll a die for the number of stops you’ll go). With some extra preparation time, you can gather the names of all the destinations that take one to three hours of travel time and write them onto index cards (or the blank cards in this kit).  You and your friends can use these cards for virtually endless adventures.

2) Timing the Timetables

Choose an exact time you want to arrive at your destination. Search all the available timetables for the destination which most precisely matches your arrival time.  Alternately, choose an exact length of travel, and match your destination to that (this requires a bit more figuring).

3) The Right Hand Doesn’t Know what the Left Hand is Doing

Unfold a transportation map, or walk up to one in the station. Avert your eyes and let your left hand sweep across the map until it finds a spot.  Write down the destination nearest to your left index finger.  This, of course, is a classic.

4) The Easy Unknown

If you’re not all that familiar with the city you’re in, almost any destination will be unknown.  Go to the station and choose by whimsical criteria. Choose a place by its evocative name (Valhalla, or Babylon, for instance, if you happen to be starting from New York), or take the first train that’s leaving and decide how long you’ll stay aboard, or follow a passenger with an interesting hat.

5) The Budget Unknown

If train travel is beyond your means at the moment, ordinary bus and subway trips offer plenty of unknown.  Add ferries into the mix if you have them. Simply pick the destination you know least about or adapt one of the other methods above. Or set out on foot using psychogeographical systems: navigate one city using a map from another, draw a diagram or picture on a map and try to walk it, follow a particular color, going from red to red to red all afternoon (see appendix 3).

6) A Little Help from Your Friends

Go to the station with one or more friends, agreeing to travel to separate destinations.  Have each person choose a destination they know nothing about, then trade destinations with each other, creating a double layer of the unknown. Or make a chain with your friends, paying forward: buy a ticket for one friend who will then buy a ticket for another, and so on.

7) Destination Party

Gather a list of all the destinations the right distance away.  Gather timetables for all those destinations (as many copies of the timetables as you have destinations). Gather blank notebooks, or materials to make them from recycled paper. Gather cards for the names of destinations. Gather big envelopes. Get together with friends over pizza or mexican food and fill an envelope for each destination. Include a card with the destination, a timetable, a notebook.  Seal the envelopes and distribute however you like.  Feel free to adapt this according to your own ideas and desires.

–Sal Randolph, Artist-In-Residence

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An Excerpt: Psychogeographic Destination Kit Sat, 17 Mar 2012 19:51:19 +0000 Why Unknow?

All around us is a mysterious landscape which occupies the same spatial dimensions as the one we are intimately familiar with.  The unknown is everywhere intertwined with the known; to see it, we only need break our own habits.  Take a wrong turning one day. Navigate by mismatched maps. Get on a train without knowing where you’ll end up.

Psychogeography is the art of moving through space according to feelings and effects rather than ordinary purposes. Like all the experimental arts, it seeks to break routine ways of being, hoping for the freshness of new experience.  Psychogeography has a history that begins in Paris with the poet Baudelaire’s favorite figure, the “flaneur” or drifter—one who spends the day walking through the city with no other purpose than to experience its ambiances. Later, Guy Debord and his companions in the Lettrist and Situationist movements briefly held the dream that “the new type of beauty can only be a beauty of situations.” Only an art of creating “situations,” they thought, had the potential to change how people lived and felt. The situations they loved involved cities, going from one place to another, chance encounters.

Here’s Debord: “Of all the affairs we participate in, with or without interest, the groping quest for a new way of life is the only thing that remains really exciting. Aesthetic and other disciplines have proved glaringly inadequate in this regard and merit the greatest indifference. We should therefore delineate some provisional terrains of observation, including the observation of certain processes of chance and predictability in the streets…. Psychogeography sets for itself the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, whether consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals. The charmingly vague adjective psychogeographical can be applied to the findings arrived at by this type of investigation, to their influence on human feelings, and more generally to any situation or conduct that seems to reflect the same spirit of discovery.”

Drawing from a variety of artistic sources beyond the Situationists (surrealist games, conceptual and land art, John Cage’s love of chance, Alan Kaprow’s happenings, Fluxus, recent developments in uncreative writing) as well as a long interest in travel as a psychic form (Australian songlines, pilgrimages, arctic explorations, tales of walking the Hindu Kush and riding the Trans-Siberian express), The Bureau of Unknown Destinations has set out to develop a practice of unknowing. Tickets were given away because unexpected gifts prompt action. Trains were chosen because of their peculiarly contemplative atmosphere, at once melancholy and hopeful. by prompting train journeys to unknown destinations, the Bureau hopes to physicalize the situation of being carried along towards a destiny.  travel as oracle. The goal is to interrupt ordinary instrumentalities, to intervene in the drive to get somewhere and get on with it. To step aside, even, from our own preferences.

John Cage was a master at this: “….the answer must take the form of paradox: a purposeful purposelessness or a purposeless play. This play, however, is an affirmation of life—not an attempt to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply a way of waking up to the very life we’re living, which is so excellent once one gets one’s mind and one’s desires out of its way and lets it act of its own accord.”

The Bureau of Unknown Destinations favors interruption, disruption and detour.  It favors abstaining from purpose for a time.  It favors simply embarking.

— Sal Randolph, Artist-In-Residence


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Unknown Destination Kits Are Here Sat, 17 Mar 2012 19:07:12 +0000 The Bureau of Unknown Destinations’ “Psychogeographic Destination Kits” are ready at last. Having given away over a hundred rail trips to the adventurous, The Bureau now expands operations by giving travelers the means to unknow their own destinations. Everyone is invited to download a kit and test it out.

The Psychogeographic Destination Kit is offered as a provocation to potential voyagers, an invitation to take a day, get on a train, and go someplace you know nothing about. The kit offers a variety of methods of unknowing, some thoughts about why unknow, and a handy foldable mini-notebook to use in recording your experience. For those departing from the Bureau’s base in New York, there’s a pre-printed set of destination cards to play with. For others, a blank set to fill in and work from.

Unknowing your destination is an art form that anyone can practice. You are the author, the architect, the composer of your experience.

The kit is made available in the form of a downloadable pdf and creative commons licensed. Anyone using the kit is invited to copy, share, and adapt it freely, and to send their findings back to the Bureau to contribute to the ongoing documentation of the project.

Download at

— Sal Randolph, Artist-In-Residence

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100 Tickets, 100 Unknown Destinations: a New Phase Begins Mon, 20 Feb 2012 18:17:28 +0000 Since January 12, the Bureau of Unknown Destinations has offered temporary displacements to members of the public seeking to experiment with their migratory impulses, as part of our yearlong Migration theme.  We are now delighted to announce that the Bureau has given away its 100th free round-trip ticket for a daylong train adventure. You may wish to visit the Bureau’s offices to see the results of some of these trips, as Participants were also given a notebook and a small, somewhat absurd, task to complete during their journeys.

Is it all over then? Not at all! The Bureau is currently developing the Psychogeographic Destination Kit to guide adventurers wishing to develop their own journeys into the unknown. The kits will be ready soon and will be made freely available to one and all. The kits will be ready soon and will be made freely available to one and all.

The Bureau of Unknown Destinations

The Bureau’s offices are open for viewing during Proteus’ hours and will be manned by the station master, Sal Randolph, on most Saturday’s from 1-5 and irregularly during the week. The Bureau of Unknown Destinations is part of a three month artist’s residency by Sal at Proteus Gowanus, extending through mid-April.


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