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Involuntary Abstinence

Killing the game - Thoughts on UE

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Lately I've been reading Bradely Garrett's book

"Explore Everything". I am sort of halfway through.

I don't pretend to be a cultural snob or elitist, and most

of the overdetailed analysis of the philosophy behind Urban Exploration with so

much reference to figures like Nietzsche is not something that makes me nod my

head in recognition of a higher purpose in what I do. Still, I totally agree

that if you scrape off all the obvious layers of why people say they are or

really are urban explorers, there is a subconscious truth to all of that.

What I really seem to understand, acknowledge and,

unfortunately, agree with, is the talk about the ruthless competitiveness

behind it in the UE community.

I am a newbie in UE. Did my first two explores in July 2013,

when the term "Urban Exploration" was not known to me. The how I got

involved is one of those blurry memories of our life, where it's hard to

actually put the "historical facts" in order and can't really tell if

"A" came first or "B". But here I am 4 months in UE and

have already gone through huge transformations.

Every day is a constant lesson, the learning process is

sometimes fast, other times is tedious. It's a weird mixture of feelings and

realities involved with it, but one thing has never changed, the realization

that I was meant to do this. It's not an arrogant claim, it's just me

acknowledging my own shortcoming and strengths and being able to trace back my

own personal history and personal growth to see that it was meant to come to

this.

Through Garrett's book, I come not to learn, but validate

the hearsay and the stories picked up from here and there about how difficult

it is to be an urban explorer in recent time. And quick note, I don't know how

it was 15 years ago, or 10 years, but I know and learning how it is now.

People love clubs. People love belonging and above all they

love ownership. They also love rules, as long as nobody else breaks them but

themselves.

Few people are true to their own code without giving false

signals as to what that code is, or if they have any. With the dependency of

modern day man and woman in social media and sharing in order to claim a higher

place in the ladder of whatever it is they are involved with, urban exploration

fell victim to its own fundamental truth.

That truth is simple. Urban exploration has in more ways

than one a single starting point for all, but it's the journey that separates

the individuals. That journey is the make or break factor and it only has to do

with the end-game as each person sees it.

There is no contract one signs that states what you have to

do or not. Unwritten rules such as not breaking in, not vandalizing (whatever

that means) are of course necessary, mostly to preserve the integrity of the

spaces. Yet by hearing and reading explorers talk about their experience, their

needs, what they like and dislike, it is clear that most create their own truth

in the pretense of a universal UE truth.

A broken window or dislodged board from a door that leads

you in a building is always a delinquent's action. We blame them for trashing

the places we adore, yet at the same time we need them to get in in the first

place.

Explorers will visit a place, find it all boarded up, call

it a failure yet deep down will wish next week some drunken youth will find his

way there, pick up a brick and just for kicks remove that obstacle. And with

that, allow the willing explorer entry to the paradise he/she craves to be

immersed in. Of course, such actions cause problems that lead for instance to

either heightened security, or even worse, increasing the rate of decay of a

building.

Same way as there are explorers who love a highly decayed

place, while others want it in mint condition, some find a place boring if

there are no chairs, personal items, nice stained glass windows behind, while

others just want to gaze upon the holes on the floor the old chimney left as it

fell through, and some like to picture the place when it was still alive with

its previous owners and workers walking around, while others just try to

visualize that moment the roof collapsed and try to put the pieces back

together.

These are all amazing, valid quests and desires, and some

will fall into all of the above categories. But it is a paradox, it is

hypocritical in a way, to claim a place your own, when the way in was not

provided by your own set of skills (skills that range from locating to

entering), but also to still call for those codes of honor when your very

presence in that space is 9 out of 10 times a gift from the ones you blame for

creating problems, or those who know how and when to bend the rules, without

feeling the need to glorify their actions through HDR shots and hashtags.

I have a huge admiration for the explorers I come across

that are as humble as they can get, not because they hide their mark in

UE-history, but because they don't pretend to be something they are not.

It is one thing to try and preserve those places, to being

cautious with information and at the end of the day, to just try and have the

level of experience you are entitled to, through the power of personal selection.

It is a whole different ballgame to call for ownership in a field where the

last thing we are is the owners.

As I recently wrote, my visit to a place I forever longed to

see inside was made possible through the help and good will of its own

caretaker. Not going about with information about the what, where and who, is

not me trying to stand a higher moral ground and gain points as a man of code

or a person with the ability to talk my way into a building, but actually it

comes from a)respect for the building itself, b)respect for the trust handed to

me by that individual. Do I wish to talk to people about it? Yes. And I will to

those I have so far learnt to trust. And this is not something I read somewhere

or pretend to be in the unwritten bible of UE, but it is something called

common sense, it is sense and sensibility.

Urban Exploration is a tremendously multi-faceted

"hobby" if I may call it that. And it is so because each person

involved is different. One can be a part of one crew, or ten crews, but it is

essentially a very private experience, one that can become extremely satisfying

if shared. Competitiveness in UE society can only hurt UE, as it has done

already. There is a difference between filtering out, and just being arrogant

and cocky.

As long as social media, facebook, instagram, forums,

provide the "voice" for people to share, it is naive to come back and

start playing the "you suck" game. You can't go to a free-for-all

party and start bitching about the presence of geeks or jocks or bimbos or rich

kids showing up. Nor can you drink the alcohol others brought at that party and

then pretend you magically saw the glass appear in your hand, but take credit

for being a heavy drinker. Just enjoy the fucking drink and next time either

choose a party that suits you better, or send out private invitations. But

whatever you do, stop expecting people to applaud you for enjoying what you do.

That is what kills the game and distorts the actual truth.

I am open for discussion and actually would love it if people would share their thoughts.

ps. I would like to make it clear, and I know that most of the time my writing is a bit confusing, that I don't endorse vandalizing a place and even though a broken glass is sometimes an interesting subject to shoot, I hate it when they are the result of idiots who know no better. I can be clearer in private.

Edited by Involuntary Abstinence

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tl;dr

I read 20 pages of that book and pretty much gave up.

There are many different ways of approaching what we all do and have a passion for, some people go down the 'one up-manship' line and try and be (or at least claim to be) better than anyone else. Everyone is in it for something different, some the explore some the photos some the adrenaline of climbing stuff/infiltrating live places etc etc.

You've just got to do what you enjoy, never try and compare yourself to those in the media spotlight (especially Mr. Garrett) and have fun.

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tl;dr

I read 20 pages of that book and pretty much gave up.

There are many different ways of approaching what we all do and have a passion for, some people go down the 'one up-manship' line and try and be (or at least claim to be) better than anyone else. Everyone is in it for something different, some the explore some the photos some the adrenaline of climbing stuff/infiltrating live places etc etc.

You've just got to do what you enjoy, never try and compare yourself to those in the media spotlight (especially Mr. Garrett) and have fun.

I think you should read a bit more but yeah...ok.

I never suggested that what Garrett says is "the truth". My interaction with people in 33 years has made me extremely cynical and I have learnt to gather information from more than one sources before passing judgment.

What I can say is that many of the things Garrett says find me in accordance with, in the sense I read the book and went "oh yeah, it is like that" or "I had the feeling it was like that" but there were cases where I was "come on, don't generalize".

At the end of the day Garrett is an individual who did something that he loved, extremely intense and hardcore and it is normal to draw mostly out of the "subjective" rather than the "objective", despite the fact that he tries (I am sure) to do more good than harm.

The point I was making taking Garrett's book as an opening statement and not as the basis of my own position on the matter is that, yes, UE is (like I said) a personal journey and each individual does it for personal reasons (the journey) and he/she grows even when in a group/crew individually, STILL, it is SAD that some (if not many) explorers through the years (and many in recent times) live for the ownership and do less than they pretend to do, or just love to be the first to criticize others when it's these "others" who paved (and still pave) the way.

I can't stand reading about people's quotes in their profiles about "infiltration" referring to entering Denbigh and such places.

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Ah yes I see.

It's sad that Mr. Garrett trampled over many of his old friends to get to where he is now though. He doesn't even acknowledge some of them any more. People should never forget their roots and how/who got them into it, that says about as much of Mr. Garrett as a person than anything really.

Even in the five years I've been an active explorer the scene has changed so much, now there seem to be way more people in it purely for the bragging rights of the photos, they 'must' be the first to upload them, they 'must' be the first to see somewhere and get peeved when someone else finds a place they thought they had hidden or realise someone got there first. This happens a fair bit now, it got so bad as a certain few European 'explorers' were exploring people's summer holiday houses when they weren't living there - that's not exploring, that goes beyond any reasonable definition of what we do. Nobody can deny the effect popular culture and the media have had either, whether the places featured are unidentified, carefully hidden or demolished or places the well-known morons decide they can sacrifice for the sake of a few quid. All that has an effect on the 'game' so to say, increased exposure of what should be a lesser-known and (dare I use the term) underground hobby changes people's attitudes and attracts a greater degree of attention from potential idiots.

I think people love the idea of clubs and 'crews', but in reality from what I've found the more limbs an organisation has the greater the chance of everything going tits up. I've never been part of a 'crew', yes I've explored with lots of different people over the years but never all at once, I really don't understand how and why people can go barreling into places 6/7/8 strong, all it does is attract attention towards the place and leave it liable to being sealed up or ruined. There has recently been a lot of talk about ethics and rules and codes and I don't subscribe to any of that really, my only rule when talking to people about this is 'don't be a dick'. There are of course the unwritten rules to keep our backsides clean from the law as obviously things that turn the civil matter of trespass into a criminal offence aren't great.

There's a lot that can be said in this topic but I'll leave it at that for the moment.

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I have Zero time for media whores or sell outs to the press as simply brings un wanted attention to what we do and the locations.

Through its very nature should be kept more low key regarding the more sensitive sites.

The end game will result in changes in the law as the public become more aware as do organisations, companies & the frustrations of developers.

The reason Trespass that we par take in is classed as a civil is as it’s classed by the CPS as not within the public interest to pursue.

The more the public are aware the more they are interested.

Its only a matter of time til the law changes and all the tourists will piss off and take pics else where :D

In for the Win

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UE encompasses many different people and many different attitudes.

There are those who take it deadly serious like they are part of some elite organisation and believe we are some kind of underground movement rebelling against the state and it's boundaries, pushing them and tearing apart the establishment.

There are those who don't take it seriously at all and are merely out there having a laugh with their mates popping their heads into a few derelict buildings and taking a few snapshots of themselves dicking about.

There are those who's interest is purely artistic and they want to use the locations for model shoots, or to setup intriguing still life images.

There are those who are interested in documenting places before they demise.

There are those who get a buzz out of infiltrating a live building site and climbing to the top of a crane just for shits and giggles.

There are people who really only enjoy the social side of it and attend meets and participate in the forums, but don't really actively explore themselves.

There are cavers and pot holers who cross over into UE sometimes, and visa-versa.

The difficulty comes when any one of those groups of people takes their stance on UE and tries to preach it as some sort of gospel 'this is how it must be done' type affair. The fact of the matter is there are no rules and no one take on the hobby is any more or less valid than another persons view. There are some things which are un-wise such as drawing too much attention to high profile sites and publishing photos in the media will always be a controversial matter as will breaking and entering, vandalism, littering, graffitti and theft. There will be supporters and haters of each of these things and that's why you find so many small UE communities on the net, each existing within their own self defined rules of what they think it's about. It's no so much elitism more like when you find those people who are on the same level as you, it just kinda works.

I've not read Garretts text, I'm sure it makes interesting reading, but I'm not interested enough to read it myself.

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Interesting post Involuntary Abstinence, I think Maniac made some good points as well and I'm also inclined to agree with what SK said. On the subject of reasons for exploring everyone will have their own, same with their boundaries, morals and self defined rules which they will abide by... In my personal experience these develop and change over time. When I first started for example, I didn't appreciate the need to code name and attempt to limit (Not stop) the spread of certain more sensitive locations in an attempt to stem the flow of foot traffic limiting damage, theft and sometimes additional security of sites. I've come under criticism by some for using code names for certain places and also for not code naming other places... everyone has their own expectations of privacy of sites but at the end of the day they all become public knowledge in the end its just a matter of time.

One thing I have found about the community, is that the people that explore are generally good people on the whole and there is a surprisingly close knit community. Whilst we might not all speak regularly, I think once you start to do the hobby regularly you quickly become familiar within those who also have a passion for it, mutual respect develops and you soon make decisions about who you can trust to provide location details to.

On the subjects of groups, clubs and crews, there's lots kicking about... whether you put a name to it or not most people have a group of people they explore with and normally a larger group that they chat with and share information with. I am a member of a little group of friends, there's nothing elitist about it, we don't exclude people from exploring with us, we don't have any defined rules, things like code names and holding back from posting certain locations while they are a little sensitive do get discussed but the decision always rests with those who went and took the photos. Mainly the group is just a place for us to chat and share info with people we trust, and I cant say I see that as a bad thing... I know not all are like this, ive seen a few groups which seem to revolve around bitching and slagging off other explorers, these wont go away but they certainly aren't the sort of places I'd want to be hanging around.

There's always going to be drama in this game, best thing you can do is decide what you think is right and reasonable and listen to the experience and advice of other who explore and that seem to have the similar reasons for exploring that you do.

PM

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Hm. I don't really see how urban exploring would be challinging the establishment in any meaningful or effective way. I've never encountered that view before, but I'm fairly new to UE communities/groups. I'm generally sceptical, though, to the applying of ideology to interrests. Although quite common, I often find the psychology of it, the reasoning, need for, consequenses, etc, quite disturbing. If that would be the case with the ideology in question here I do not know. I haven't checked it out properly.

I personally enjoy seeing the places, and have fun attempting to get good shots. My sploring is a lot about the photos. And I enjoy the opportunity to show someone my work, and that someone is actually interrested in seeing my photos. It's a lot more fun with photography when you've got someone to show your stuff to. So this side is quite a motivation factor for me. Also, I'm a history geek. I enjoy the historic site seeing. And the social part, both here on OS and meeting up.

On the secrecy. Protecting the locations is a good thing. Even in my pretty short time as a splorer I've seen sites ruined by vandalism, demolished, closed up, increased security and heavy fines, due to becoming a well known UE site. I find the demolishing and vandalism the sadest, but closing up, increased security and heavy fines ruines the fun too. On the other hand, if all sites were completely secret I would get to see very few of them. And that goes for all of us. Wether very experienced with lost of contacts sharing info on sites, or new and hoping someone will let you in on some good locations, we all rely on others sharing locations. Complete secrecy would mean getting to see very little, never telling anyone what you've seen, never show photos to anyone, etc. Not realistic. Keeping locations among a chosen few would mean no newcomers, no-one but those who were in before a certain point in time. And it would mean not me. UE is getting well known. Understandeably. It's great fun. The fame has most certainly changed the game, and some of the changes I find sad, I would have loved to be in years ago. When splorers are not sharing locations it's both understandable and very frustrating.

I try to do a middle way sort of thing. When showing photos be careful not to state locations openly. Share locations only with those I think will be careful and respectful both on site and with sharing location. Known sites I share easily, lesser known sites I may have to know someone well. In one of my first reports here I was stating full location openly. If that is one of the reasons for the current problems at that site I am sorry. I assumed it was so well known it would not make a difference. I won't do that again.

On one side I think theese sites are treasures that anyone interrested should get the chance to see. But then I see how some ruins the sites and understand secrecy is nessesary for preservation.

Well. Ramblings over morning coffee. I've been giving that secrecy thing quite a bit of thought lately.

Edit: Interresting discussion, by the way. Sorry if I come off as overly negative to the ideology thing. Got some bad experience with similar stuff. If it's your thing and you're not harming anyone by it, going elitistic over it or imposing it on others then no problem with me.

Edited by northerngeek

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Hm. I don't really see how urban exploring would be challinging the establishment in any meaningful or effective way. I've never encountered that view before, but I'm fairly new to UE communities/groups. I'm generally sceptical, though, to the applying of ideology to interrests. Although quite common, I often find the psychology of it, the reasoning, need for, consequenses, etc, quite disturbing. If that would be the case with the ideology in question here I do not know. I haven't checked it out properly.

That line is mainly used by people wanting to put too much of a deep meaning on what or why they do it....at the end of the day everyone is just tramping around derelict spaces!

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Sure enough it's trespassing what the bottom line is. If you trespass in abandoned hospitals maybe you like the macabre visualization in your head and setups give you thrills, if you trespass in industrial ruins maybe you love mad max and engineering, and if you trespass in construction sites to go up cranes then definitely you are an adrenaline junkie, same as the guy skydiving or base-jumping.

But just because one, two, or 100 people don't want to go deeper, to scratch the surface for whatever personal reason, does not necessarily mean that UE is not something more to the above. Just because one cannot fully justify his actions, or the way he can actually interpret his actions seems to him and and/or to others quite simple, does not mean that there is never a deeper, not complex really, but not one-dimensional reason behind it.

It might make life easy (?!) to suggest that everything we do we just do it for no reason really, just because, that if we weren't doing this, we would be doing something else. But that is again a personal ideology/philosophy that one applies to his life...so there you have it.

Finally, ideology as a word is or may seem to some "negative", it is indeed powerful, but you have to have a complete understanding of ideologies in general before you discard the possibility of it being applied to certain things. Having an ideology you believe in, either you follow it or not, does not make you a "fanatic", or incapable of being objective when it comes to judging situations and being able to tell right from wrong.

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Do your own thing, find new stuff and keep it low profile - that's my idea of exploring :grin2:

It's best not to overthink exploring, it's just a way of passing your spare time.

Edited by Cuban Bloodhound

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Do your own thing, find new stuff and keep it low profile - that's my idea of exploring :grin2:

Amen to that!

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I'm glad to read some thoughtful comments about our 'pastime'. I don't want to over-analyse it but I'm one who's in it for both the photography aspect and the total experience. Ask anyone why they do it and you'll get a different answer. Apart from the obvious, theft and deliberate damage, one of my biggest problems is with anyone who doesn't walk it like they talk it.

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