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- Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle
I found out about this book when The Atlantic published a set of pictures from Bradley Garrett's blog. Although I am not an urban explorer myself, I have always been very curious about this concept and the pictures looked fascinating enough for me to follow through and purchase Garrett's book.
At a high level, the book describes the author's experience as an ethnographer doing research on the urban exploration (UE) community as well as being its very active participant. The narrative is a combination of Garrett's various adventures and deep reflections on the general philosophy of UE.
From his adventures I found these the most interesting:
1.Descriptions of social dynamics and politics of various UE groups that compete and cooperate with each other
2.Exploration of the abandoned and disused London Tube stations
3.Adventure in discovery and investigation of the London Mail Rail system
4.Garrett's time spent with UE group in Minnesota, helping chart various underground tunnels underneath the Twin Cities
While Garrett's various UE adventures are certainly interesting in it of themselves, I think the key strength of the book lays in his healthy dose of reflection, introspection, and philosophizing that is intertwined into every exploit. Here, he deeply delves into numerous issues:
1.UE ethics - what does it mean to leave no trace behind? how forceful to be when entering a place? how to approach abandoned and derelict places when they are used by the indigent and the homeless for shelter
2.The ethos of UE - the difference between a controlled "museum like" interaction with history and present environment vs. a non-scripted, open ended, and non-linear approach of UE. The freedom to be able to take personal risks without being smothered by an overly safety conscious society. Being able to truly connect and build a relationship with one's city of residence through the exploration of all the spaces and environments that it has to offer.
3.The problems of publicizing one's UE exploits - on the one hand wanting to share the fascinating pictures of the unknown and the forgotten places with the world, on the other hand drawing the attention of the authorities to the whole UE community and making it more difficult for other explorers to access these sites
4.Describing the culture of UE to the lay audience without homogenizing a very diverse set of individuals, and becoming an unwanted spokesperson for the entire community
Since I am not an urban explorer, my sense prior to reading this book was that UE was akin to self directed, amateur archeology. Something that is driven by trying to reconstruct the past lives and interacting with the histories of the abandoned and derelict places in an unconstrained fashion. While that may be partially true for some urban explorers, this book really expanded this view for me. It showed, that for a lot of the people in the UE community, it's really about, as the title implies, the challenge of conquering the environment and solving puzzles in an urban setting. This could be figuring out how to gain entry into a specific place, charting a map of some underground tunnel/subway system, capturing all the elements of a particular system, or just simply beating out another group of people to some unexplored site. Given their drive to discover & chart, push boundaries, and seek novelty, it seems that modern day urban explorers are people in the same mold of Victorian era explorers such as Henry Stanley and David Livingstone.
While I ultimately give it 5 stars, the book has a few gaps in my opinion. Since Garrett's life as an urban explorer served as the foundation of his PhD thesis in ethnography, I was surprised that he doesn't comment more about this dynamic. I understand that this book is largely about UE itself, but it would have been really interesting to learn more about what his academic colleagues and his advisors thought about the way he was conducting this research.
While he does touch on this towards the end of the book, I would have also liked to see a little more commentary about blurring the line between one's own lifestyle and academic research. Given Garrett's affinity for UE lifestyle, it seems that this is something he would have been involved in regardless of his academic career. It just so happened that he was able to parlay his personal interest into furthering his academic career. Also, while the ambiguity between participant and observer in ethnography is a common occurrence, it seems that in Garrett's case, given his intense involvement into the UE cultural scene, he almost fully created his own experiences to document and explore. He is certainly very well aware of these issues and does touch on them in some way, but I just wish it was explored a little bit more.
So, to summarize, this is a very thoughtful and involved look at urban exploration. In addition to some really interesting stories and anecdotes about specific adventures, I think the biggest value of this book is really in its reflective and engaging examination of the UE culture, ethos, and it's place in the modern society. I would certainly recommend this book to any curious reader.
3 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Does everyone have a longing to go past those "restricted entry" signs, "authorized access only" barriers, the "no trespassing"signs? Maybe not everyone, but it seems like there is a basic human desire to cross boundaries, to explore unknown and forbidden places, and to find untouched locations. However, most of us, either out of respect for private property and the rule of law, or out of timidity and caution, stay safely within prescribed boundaries.
Bradley Garrett, a researcher at the Oxford University School of Geography and the Environment, spent several years hanging out with urban explorers, guys (mostly guys; there are a few female urban explorers), sneaking into closed down buildings, sewers, abandoned Tube stations, construction sites, skyscrapers, and other closed off and forbidden locations. He tells the stories of their adventures, discoveries, and misadventures in Explore Everything: Place-Hakcing the City.
For Garrett and his UE buddies, urban exploration, or place-hacking, is not a juvenile thrill-seeking, but "taking back rights to the city from which we have been wrongfully restricted," protesting the "increased securitisation"of public places, about "going places you're not supposed to go, seeing places you're not supposed to see." They see urban exploration as a "more tantalising option"than "the mall and the television screen," and a way to find alternatives to "state-mediated historical interpretation."
One the one hand, Garrett's tales of UE make me curious, not just about the places he visits, but about my own city as well. What might I discover underground, or in some abandoned buildings, or in a construction site? How difficult would it be to on top of Fort Worth's tallest buildings? On the other hand, I believe that private property should be respected, that liability in the case of injury of death should be acknowledged, and that sometimes doors are locked and "No trespassing" signs are there for a very good reason.
Garrett does take pains to point out that urban explorers do not damage property, do not steal from or vandalize places they hack, and as a rule follow a "leave no trace" ethic similar to hikers. The one thing they do take is a lot of pictures. The pictures are awesome, mostly from the tops of buildings or underground. They looked OK on my basic kindle, but I would encourage to get the physical book, view them on a color reader, or visit his web site ([...] where he posts pictures of his explorations.
Even with Garrett's academic, philosophical descriptions of the activities and motives of urban explorers, I still saw a bunch of thrill-seeking young guys thumbing their noses at "the man." For all of their "working to create more democratic relationships to space in the context of an often dehumanizing global capitalist system," they come across as kids getting a kick out of going where they know they're not supposed to go. But they do take great pictures, don't damage or destroy the places the visit, and, I have to admit, tempt me to do some sneaking around myself.
Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!