This morning, diligent as ever in my new year resolution fervour, I was at the gym at 8am. I needed it, needed time to think. I have recently been going through this crisis trying to “return from the field” and have been experiencing what can only be called withdrawals. People talk about this, but in my case, given the high-adrenaline nature of my work, I think it is actually physical. Maybe it is for everyone. My point is, I looked out the window while I was doing sit-ups and listening to a lecture on Heideggerian phenomenology and noticed that this really locked down construction site had entered the demolition process. The builders had busted out windows to throw stuff out of the top floors, right next to the scaffolding. The barbed wire was taking a beating form the work. Good news for me.
Hours later, I was having a conversation with my friend and colleague Erika Sigvardsdotter about the fact that we can never become our research, to do so would be to deny that we had bodies, to suppress our physical existence for an intellectual one. Neither extreme is healthy we decided, balance must be maintained between experience and analysis. I figured this weekend was my last chance to crawl around in this place and Erika encouraged me to go. So I did. Alone.
The other week, I went into Battersea solo to meet up with friends and found it to be… well… rather liberating. Knowing that you only have to depend on yourself, you can be as quiet as you are able. You can take your time. You can pay more attention to your experience. You can run like hell if you have to.
Since my research is about urban exploration culture, I don’t usually solo places. I also don’t usually do infiltrations. But as I mentioned in my last post, change is in the air this winter. After short walk, I was over the fence, staring at the scaff on the side of the building.
I believe it is, at the moment, the tallest building in Clapham (maybe 10 stories?). Whatever the case, I was determined to get to the roof. Determined enough to ignore some things on the way up.
On the way to the top, I ran into a brochure for the development. It was strange to think that someone may have placed it there just this afternoon; maybe giving a tour to the new owners.
If fact, the whole time I was there, I held an amazing sense of euphoria. Hours ago, people were at work here, throwing “trash” out of the windows. Now I was here while they were at home drinking beer in front of the telly. I was wearing their high-vis vest, trying on their hardhats, playing in their machines and kicking their “trash” around. It made me think of Danny Pack‘s comment on my last post;
sharing a live site with security, workers, staff and cctv cameras provides the adrenaline hit that abandoned buildings never can – its the polar opposite of the trust you gain knowing you have a certain space to yourself, if just for a few hours.
As the climb continued, the horrible Friday night cacophony from Clapham High Street turned into a whisper.
Soon I found the ladder to the roof and looked down on the day’s work that had taken place. It always amazes me how slowly a building goes up and how quickly they can come down. This building was sitting there, stagnant, a week ago; now half of it is missing.
I become suddenly righteous behind the camera, the paladin of the forgotten, running around the rooftop screaming and capturing every angle.
All pumped up on my perceived powers over time and space, I grab the metal and swing out over the high street…
I spent a while sitting on the rooftop, doing nothing. Thinking. Being in love with the experience. This is the part of UrbEx you don’t usually share with people. I watched the lives moving below me, trying to not let my vision filter into some nerdy academic thought about rhythmanalysis or something. I found it difficult, until I caught this moment.
Now, I was too high up to hear what was going on. I wondered who these people were. Did they meet tonight? Have they been together for ages? Is he offering her his jacket or getting ready to assault her? No way to tell from here. I feel bad for watching them, then I feel I have a right to. If CCTV can watch all these people, so can I. These conflicting emotions are confusing and after fighting with myself for a minute I walk away, laughing out loud at my propensities fro overanalysis, to go take pictures toward London, Dark Princess Battersea glowing off in the distance. My home. My city.
The walk down was quiet, I took my time and even sat to cry for a while when I thought of the memories that would collapse with this building. Urban exploration is more real than my real life.
So, here is the nightcap. I walked home from here at 2am, noticing for the first time how stupid I look when I am out drunk in my neighbourhood. Everyone kept chatting with me and I wondered why. I Realized when I got home that my fucking headlight was still perched on my bowler hat. FAIL!
Anyway, a great Friday night. I look forward to more of them. Off to sleep I go at 5am, goodnight Clapham, goodnight London!