Due to a variety of factors, it is necessary to bring Gutter Archaeology to a close for the time being. To set aside the issue of time constraints, the larger limitation is the decidedly finite number of available publications to inspect. The age of urban exploration zines was brief, and many of its products were created on such a small-scale that they are prohibitively difficult to track down. However, I did want to wrap things up by noting the unreviewed items that were on the docket, which may receive a more thorough treatment when I am available to write it.
Outfall was an e-zine created by Reduxzero, who was also the creator of 5100, a zine from the mid-aughts which I was unable to track down in print. Like his website, Drains of my City, Outfall largely deals with draining, and includes many photographs, diagrams, and citations.
I had planned to pair Outfall with another e-zine, Broke in Korea; which is not explicitly about urban exploration, but contains a considerable amount of UE content. Personal communication from the author, who goes by Jon Twitch, notes the main UE content:
- Issue 5: first mention of UE, published in 2007
- Issue 6: a spread on an abandoned amusement park.
- Issue 7: a comparative article about UE in different Asian countries
- Issue 9: another amusement park
- Issue 11: a list of 7 abandoned wonders of Korea (probably a little outdated now) and a story about an urban renewal struggle.
- Issue 12: revisiting earlier UE content
- Issue 15: list of rules for taking stuff from abandonments
- Issue 16: back cover translates some useful UE phrases into Korean.
- Issue 19: an interview with a movie director who documented an urban renewal battle in a familiar abandoned area
- Issue 21: a trip report to an island with lots of abandonments
- Issue 22: a very daring picture taken from on top City Hall
Railroad Semantics by Aaron Dactyl is a zine about trainhopping, containing cut-and-pasted material and personal reminisces. Trainhopping may not come instantly to mind as a form of urbex; but in it has been tied into the community since the early days of its modern formation, such as through Wes Modes’ early website on the subject (when it was called “urban adventure”). In preparation for this zine, I read Hopping Freight Trains in America, a comprehensive guide from the early 90s by Duffy Littlejohn.
Finally, I was going to cover Catfiltration, written in the voice of the cat owned by Ninjalicious and Liz.
To help you piece together the reason for my lack of time to work on the column, I will note that having access to a university library again (hint, hint) has allowed me to investigate some publications, scholarly and otherwise, that discuss urban exploration. Alan North’s early tome “The Urban Adventure Handbook” brings a playful but thorough eye to the pre-Infiltration activities; and I promised that I would make the second ever internet mention of his oft-cited guru, the Bodivoodo. Another book, Corporate Wasteland: The Landscape and Memory of Deindustrialization has a chapter on urban exploration, with some negative conclusions that I would dispute (and some that I would not). I am also looking forward to a read of Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City by Bradley Garrett, a British geography professor. Anyone interested in further academic work on urban exploration can find a half-dozen articles on JSTOR as well.
I look forward to reading and writing about these zines and others in the future; but in case I am unable to, I wanted to take an opportunity to note the importance of urban exploration to the field of urban studies, and the importance of urban studies as an intellectual discipline. Humans have been remaking the face of the earth in their image for thousands of years, piling building atop building and city atop town atop village. Some are fearful of this human creation, and shun the very idea of cities, as well as their residents. However, the city is our proudest creation; not the regimented corporate city that serves to engineer the lives of its residents (though that itself makes a fascinating study), but the chaotic, untrammeled city that does not put every square foot to the most efficient use possible, that has redundancies and errors, forgotten back alleyways and abandoned factories and marble facades dumped in the woods.
These irregularities should be celebrated, and a small group of photographers and writers are those who bring that appreciation to the rest of us. In my brief time reading the thoughts and viewing the photography of urban explorers, I have found their commentary to be thought-provoking, even if I have not always agreed with it. I hope that this column has helped some cultivate some small appreciation for not only urban exploration, but for urban explorers and the literature they produce. In a world that is constantly being rebuilt, eventually this documentation may be all that we have left.