After my interest was piqued by hearing stories of a friend-of-a-friend visiting St Peter’s Seminary, I came across Bradley Garrett’s book Explore Everything. I pretty much consumed the book in a day, scribbling and underlining as I went. If I’m going to spend the next year of my life constantly thinking, stressing and blabbering on about my research topic, it might as well be something interesting. Something that people may actually want to listen to? I’ve found it makes pretty good pub chat so far, so I can’t be going too far wrong.
A tour of online journals such as Environment and Planning D, Geography Compass, Transactions, and Progress in Human Geography revealed a modest (in size that is) but blossoming field of research. Within the handful of academic papers published, many are responses and rebuttals to each other. The healthy, and sometimes fiery, debate between those who are defining this emergent field of research is a jolly good read, and for me adds to the attraction of Urban Exploration as a research topic.
The study of Urban Exploration fits particularly well within the discipline of geography, not only for the historic associations with the term ‘exploration’. The use of embodied fieldwork to examine our relationships with space, and the sub-discipline of psychogeography both lend themselves to scrutinising the practice of urban exploration and more generally how people interact with liminal spaces within the city. This led me to the work of Ian Sinclair, which I will admit now that I couldn’t finish.
Bennett makes the distinction between Sinclair’s literary psychogeography,and the political psychogeography of Guy Debord and the Situationist International whose use of tactics such as dérive and détournement allowed them to ‘defamiliarise’ the heavily regulated experience of the city.
A far easier read was the coffee table esque ‘Beauty in Decay’ – a birthday present from my flatmates. The striking (perhaps over-edited) photographs are accompanied by possible motivations behind urban exploration. The ideas of risk and empowerment, the symbolism of ruins and the concept of abandoned spaces as a place for contemplation and catharsis are all possible reasons to reconsider ones interactions with the overstimulating yet highly regulated urban environment.