Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Principle of The Thing

There is an odd dynamic when it comes to historical buildings and places. If they are relatively recent, they are not sacred. They can be bastardized for tourism, “restored” to something they never were, converted into an artificial playground for self appointed intellectuals, converted into condos, or simply demolished.

Once they are old enough, then they suddenly become a sacred part of our past, and are not touched, except to keep them from falling down entirely. Nevertheless, with many of these old structures, it would be considered blasphemy to clean them out entirely and replace their decaying parts.

In any case, the preservation of such a place is for the purpose of remembering history. History tends to be places where bloodbaths occurred or where people prayed, or so one would think from just visiting “historical” sights. And yet, all around us, our history is slowly fading away; our forts and temples and battlefields are well preserved, but what of the real past?

The real past is almost dead in memory and is dying in its physical reality. The real past is the great infrastructure that was once the lifeblood of these cities. Outdated, fallen out of use, the drains, tunnels, plants, factories, and everything that allowed a city to exist in this place has since been abandoned, in our memory as much as they have been physically.

Those places, rusting, rotting, crumbling, are much more our history than any site filled with modern material and deemed “restored.” Like decaying Greek temples or crumbling European castles, they are much more real to their past because they have been untouched since their past. To travel to such a place, to see the machinery and brickwork, is to see the past as it was, simply a little bit aged.

And this, to me, is what urban exploration is. It’s not about busting into businesses and bragging about trespassing. It’s about living a time that is rapidly disappearing, sinking under a new city. The undoctored past is a rare thing to have the privilege to experience, especially because this is not the past of kings or generals or millionaire mansions. This is the past of sewer and drain workers, factory workers, builders, tunnelers – ordinary people who built the labyrinthine hive of humans, that maze of rooms and halls above ground and under that we know as – a city.

- Jacques


Anonymous said...

Wow, Im going to digest this for a little bit.

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