Making an essay (in writing or in images and sounds) is a practice that benefits from wandering. Your thoughts drift away from the keyboard and your mind wanders, instead of methodically approaching your subject. Or your fingers take over the thinking and operate the editing software with a mind of their own, wandering through the material you had gathered for your video essay. That may sound counterproductive, but making an essay this way can also be an experience of wonder. Because straying from the purpose-driven path may open up new insights and can generate (chance) encounters that enrich and confirm your initial instincts.
This video essay by Chloé Galibert-Laîné (published on the French site Débordements) is a case in point. It is about the flaneur, that idle wanderer who caresses reality with his or her gaze. It is also a thing of wonder: an assured and graceful video essay that addresses the flânerie not only as its subject but also uses it as a modus operandi. Galibert-Laîné brings Walter Benjamin’s 1935 thinking to bear on today’s reality. Has the flaneur gone digital, and is that particular mode of looking more prevalent today online than it is on the streets?
The video essay effortlessly combines archival images, film clips and footage shot by Galibert-Laîné herself. The editing creates match-on-action and eyeline match resonances across eight decades of critical and artistic thinking about flânerie. The images from various periods blend into a mise en abyme of looks, of walks, of cityscapes. The result is a video essay that stimulates the mind and quickens the pulse. Like a good walk does.