Parkour, the art of moving quickly in urban areas using only the body and staying true to the principle of “displacement,” a call to ceaseless forward movement combined with a kind of Zen-like self-presence, is dangerous to the practitioner (traceur) but also, in a sense, to the logic of the city. As documented on YouTube, Jump London, and Casino Royale or seen in the flesh, parkour is the most spectacular of a set of unruly practices in the specular city, from skateboarding to flash mobbing. The traceur can be situated in the history of urban wanderers in the midst of capital, from the nineteenth-century Parisian flaneur to the strange urban hieroglyphics of the Situationist drifters and the new psychogeographers. The city is an accretion of forms characterized by a nostalgia for self-presence (roughly, democracy) and by economy (transnational capital flow), the first a desire to be here, the second a reckoning with the impossibility of being simply here. In the most literal, architectural sense, these might be civic buildings on the one hand and commercial on the other, and as it turns out, these are the best buildings to jump off, over, and around. Late capital's urban matrix hardly has time to be itself in the haste with which it hums a threnody of global evocations, and the traceur moving soundlessly in such a sensorium, or glimpsed briefly against a cityscape of allusive forms, will tell us everything we need to know about presence if he or she will but tarry for a moment.
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David Thomson; Jump City: Parkour and the Traces. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 April 2008; 107 (2): 251–263. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-2007-065
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