Fumeur: A Mis-Guide

By Garrett Lockhart and Evan Smith

“The student is a tired, busy, and usually stressed body. A cigarette, for some, is an ironic breath of fresh air.  We see students smoking outside doorways after an exam, on the steps outside the cafeteria after a quick meal, or huddling under an archways when the snow is too much to bear; these spaces in which students smoke are not chosen without thought…”

Fumeur is a photographic essay designed to be used as a psychogeographic map of the spaces in which students smoke on Concordia’s Loyola campus.  Users of the guide are to participate in a derive, an activity of the Situationists, defined by Guy Debord as “a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances” (65).  On this walk, participants may begin and finish where they please, but must attempt to place at least three of the spaces depicted in Fumeur on a map of Loyola campus.   By examining these spaces, we are able to make assumptions of the smoker.  For instance, if a patch of cigarette butts exists outside of the library building, we may assume this space is used to have a smoke during a break from studying or reading; users of Fumeur are encouraged to conceptualize the cigarette butt as a modern breadcrumb.  By taking note of the amount of cigarette butts in a specific area, we are able to understand its popularity as a space to smoke.  The goal of our guide is to reimagine the spaces in which students smoke, and to uncover reasons why they smoke where they do.

Even though smoking spots are not given much public attention, they are telling of the bodies which inhabit them for only a moment in time.  Choosing a space to smoke is dependant on factors such as ease of access, weather conditions, and practicality.  These spaces are also never neutral.  Some are designated for smokers, while smoking in other spaces is strictly prohibited.  Our guide works to explore and expose these spaces, whether intended for smoking cigarettes or not.

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6 comments

  1. REVIEW:

    Since I don’t smoke, it was interesting seeing the locations of this guide in a different light; for me, these are typically “in-between” spaces that allow me to get from one place to another, but other people actually linger to experience the space by taking a smoke break.

    An intriguing aspect of the photo essay is the absence of bodies. Even though people aren’t technically present in the images, the focus on the cigarette butts signifies a recent human presence and hints at how these spaces have been used. This absence of bodies also allows us to imagine ourselves in these spaces.

    Another interesting aspect of the guide is that many of these locations aren’t very accessible in the winter due to the cold and snow, meaning that smokers have an even more difficult time during this season. Because of the weather, it was difficult to enjoy exploring these spaces without wanting to get back inside as quickly as possible. One thing I noticed on the tour was all of the cigarette butts underneath “no smoking” signs, showing how some students use these spaces in ways they are not supposed to.

    The format of the photo essay was very easy to navigate, and the quality of the photographs was crisp; it was nice to have a variety in terms of framing, mixing close-ups with establishing shots. There is one image of what appears to be a bathroom that seems very out of place, so it would be nice to know why the photograph was chosen, where it is, and how it relates to everything else.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “There is one image of what appears to be a bathroom that seems very out of place, so it would be nice to know why the photograph was chosen, where it is, and how it relates to everything else.”

      I also wondered this! Evan? Garrett?

      Like

  2. Review: Fumeur: A mis-guide
    by Garrett Lockhart and Evan Smith

    There is power portrayed in this photographic essay, a clearly delineated stack of dominant hegemonic and legislative power which decrees that smokers must obey the municipal and provincial laws of not lighting up less than nine metres from entrances/ exits, or find elsewhere to blow off their steam. Yet there is also the portrayal in these photographs of playfulness in willful defiance of these same powers, as observed in the clusters of “breadcrumbs” left by those bodies who resist to abide by such rulings. Smokers have to redefine and re-appropriate public spaces even in the ‘freedom’ of the outside air, by subverting the marginal spaces determined for them and by finding new ways to claim their place. The Situationists should be proud of those who flaunt the law in front of “no smoking” areas (which also brought to mind a long-ago professor of mine who used to puff away in class directly beneath a posted “no smoking” sign).

    These spaces are beautifully portrayed in this psychogeographic essay as briefly inhabited places treasured by some bodies, yet unnoticed or annoyingly rushed through by others. I was able to find and embrace most of the spaces documented in this photographic map – the stairs and picnic tables outside of CJ with their lingering siren call in warmer seasons, the entrances to the lower floors of CJ and the science building, outside of the library and the Hive buildings, under the archway. I have paused to de-stress in these places. Hingston Hall was new to me, never having wandered that afar on campus before, though I was not allowed inside to visit the bathroom that the authors may or may not have been portrayed as a residence loo in their final photograph.

    I also appreciate that the authors assert that “these spaces are also never neutral”; you are either a smoker (occasional smoking does still a smoker make), or you are not. If you are of the smoking minority, you are expected to obey the laws or face penalty, harkening to Foucault’s panoptic self-surveillance and being watched by the invisible eye. Often these spaces also carry the delineation of “the Other”: the constrained, the rebellious, the shunned, the unhealthy. I can attest to the derision and avoidance that non-smoking travellers throw towards those who take pride in their addiction to le tabac, even when outside in or beyond the designated areas of what is legally – thereby socially-conditioned/constructed as – accepted.

    Full disclosure: I am a smoker, and I have felt the both the leisure and the scorn in these spaces, even as the winds blow cold.

    – Lorrie Edmonds

    Liked by 3 people

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