A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad. -Theodore Roosevelt

Look up

I have a few guiding principles to my life I always adhere to. The first, and most important, is that each year of my life must surpass the last. I have succeeded in that goal every year so far, though the last four have been particularly exceptional.

It was 2007 when I stumbled into the office of the eminent geographer Denis Cosgrove at UCLA. To my surprise, he asked me to sit in his chair as he laid down on the couch. He then said, staring at the ceiling, ‘So tell me why you want to do a PhD…’ I waxed on at length about my frustrations as an archaeologist. ‘I don’t want to be in control of people’s pasts, I want to act historical facilitator rather that an interpreter.’ He looked at me, waiting for more. ‘You know, what I’ve been doing just feels inauthentic and I think cultural geography might be a better home discipline for me.’ He laid there for a bit before he told me, ‘It would be great to have you as a student here but you must know I have stomach cancer and may not live through your PhD if you were accepted into the programme. I think you should also apply to Royal Holloway, University of London where I used to be and sometimes still teach. Call Tim Cresswell.’ I did, and that’s how my story at Royal Holloway began. Cosgrove knew I was too twisted to do a PhD in puritan America.

A journey

At an end

It’s been four years now since I began that journey and a few days ago, it officially ended. I made the move from Mr Garrett to Dr Garrett in my Royal Holloway wizard robes and smurf hat. Although Denis died a few years earlier, just as he had predicted, I can’t help but think that he would have been proud to see me standing there with my parents sipping champagne while my project participants snuck into the ceremonies to infiltrate the campus steam tunnels in ties and dresses. My parents, to my delight, laughed at the whole affair. I guess they probably expected as much and I’m glad they were there for the pomp, circumstance and usual antics.

Gold

There are many people at Royal Holloway to thank for my time there. In particular, David Gilbert, Felix Driver and Alastair Pinkerton offered key advice during my PhD. Alice Christie kept me on track with pep talks every time I saw here that made sense of the world. Phil Crang took on the ‘fun job’ (as he calls it) of being my advisor, advising me to track down fresh articles and alerting me to exhibitions. He also had an eagle-eye for critical reading of my writing and an ability to cut right through my drifting prose to rip the heart out.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude Katherine Brickell not just for reading my work, inspiring me, keeping me on track, keeping me employed but for being my most trusted friend and collaborator. Most importantly, Tim Cresswell, as Denis well-knew, was the most well-suited supervisor I could have hoped for. As anyone who has done a PhD knows, your relationship with your supervisor is quiet special, it’s sort of like being adopted by another parent. Tim studied his PhD under Yi-Fu Tuan, who I suppose is a bit like my academic grandfather. From the 1960s when Tuan did his work, we have now moved from Space to Place to Place Hacking. We have bridged US and UK academia back and forth numerous times. We have also collectively inspired a lot of drama. It’s a great family to ride with. Almost as cool as the Garrett clan.

Back in the day, Tuan wrote that ‘human geography studies human relationships.’ It’s close to the mark but I respectfully suggest broadening that definition grandfather because good human geography also builds relationships. Ethnography is beautiful thing, you never know where it is going to go in the beginning and it can fracture in countless directions based on many different factors. I never could have expected that my time at RHUL would have led to the things it did.  What we have done in the past four years, the community we built, was something truly exceptional.

The LCC Old Guard

It was fitting then that the community we built with the support of Royal Holloway left something behind on graduation day to gel our legacy and make sure the university never forgets our four great years together. After considering our skill requirements, the perfect team stepped up for the job – Patch, Helen, Marc, Dan and Winch. Patch and I headed to ASDA for a king size black sheet and a bucket of emulsion and got painting. The next night, Dan and Marc rolled in at 2am and scaled the clock tower to strap on the banner. It lasted until 10:30am when I saw Olympics security personal trying to get it down with a long pole. They looked like they were enjoying themselves.

Patch on the roller

For a good cause

So yeah, I said the magic word – Olympics. Boo! I guess it’s well known by now that some of us were in and out of the Olympic park as we pleased during construction. G4S’s major security fuckups are not new news, I assure you. Royal Holloway is an official Olympic venue, with armed police and G4S personnel patrolling the campus and Founders building on total lockdown at night. Marc and Dan rolled out this banner 3 days before the 2012 Olympics swung into high gear and campus security had good reason to be embarrassed, even as I’m sure they can enjoy a good college prank as much as the next person.  So here’s are the mission details…

Back in 2008, Marc Explo and Hydra cracked the steam tunnels underneath the campus with me – they run from the boiler house to underneath Founders. It was not long before we had gone down with other PhD students: Michael Anton, Ashley Dawkins and Amy Cutler.

Hot and tight

First bite

The year after, Mike and I went back in the tunnels with some new PhD students. Four years later, this is now a tradition for new geography students (and probably other departments – we can’t be the only one’s curious enough to look right?).  Soon after we started thinking about the roof and spires, which we could now access at night through the steam tunnels.

Step 1

Step 2

And now it’s cubed

The view from the roof was exceptional and all sort of new routes across Founder’s could be devised. Now that I am gone, I expect students to carry on exploring everything on campus. I would be highly disappointed if the next generation of students do not mark out some new routes. Then again, I have been pretty shocked at the apathetic response to the securitisation of our university campus by both staff and students over the last few months – anybody want to apply some critical thinking skills to that process? To those students who still have some courage, some climbing anchors would be very helpful in a few places. Get busy!

A route

To glory

Requires delicacy

So, now that the PhD is over, a transition is taking place. I am actually sitting on a plane at Heathrow, ready to take off to Cambodia right now. Katherine Brickell and I will be working on a month-long project about domestic violence law using participatory video. When I get home at the end of August, it’s back to exploring (in 3 countries) until October.

Then, on October 1st, I am delighted to announce I will begin a new job amongst the dreaming spires at the University of Oxford as a Researcher in Technological Natures. While at Oxford, I will turn my thesis into a book with Verso, teach some subversive modules and conjure up my next big idea. So, against all odds, it appears that 2012 will top 2011 and 2013 is looking very bright indeed. Thanks to everyone who has followed along the way. Carry on exploring everything, the plane is taking off. I’m out.

Shizzle (photo by Harriet Hawkins)

Good luck with that Olympics thang by the way London, I’m sure it’s all going to be great fun.

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15 thoughts for PhD students

Posted by Bradley L. Garrett on Sunday Dec 12, 2010 Under Academia

If you knew what you were doing, it wouldn’t be called research.
-Albert Einstein

From www.phdcomics.com

Whether due to my compulsive nature or my egregious energy levels, many of my postgraduate colleagues often ask me for advice on their PhD goals. It occurred to me, a few month ago while wandering through the derelict University of Liege campus in Belgium, that the strange model I have created for myself in my PhD has indeed been a good (dare I yet say successful?) one and that, in my last year, it might be useful to actually write down what has worked and what hasn’t for current and future PhD students. So here are 15 thoughts for PhD students.

Please keep in mind that these are not hard-and-fast rules, they are just ideas drawn from my experience. I hope they are helpful in some way.

1. Funding

My first thought is one of the most essential. Get full funding. I know this is harder now than it used to be but just keep fighting for it. Go pay for a one-year MA out of pocket and try again if you need to. Find the university you want to be at, contact the person you want to work with, wine them and dine them, write them love letters, write a killer proposal and get the cash. When they offer you partial funding (as Royal Holloway, University of London did in my first application in 2007), turn it down gently, when they offer you nothing, be offended, seriously. Most people don’t realize that funding is a negotiation and you can play hardball. My second application to RHUL landed me another £20,000 toward my work. Why is this important? Well, firstly, you will be a lot less stressed if you are not under under enormous financial pressures and anything you can do to alleviate stress during your PhD is pure gold. Secondly, it will give you confidence, and encourage you to live up to the investment the university has made in you (which is why I say if the university won’t invest anything in you, tell them to shove it!). Third, obviously, it looks awesome on your CV!

2. Create a great PhD topic

One easy way to get funding is to work under someone else’s research project. This, in my experience, creates the most miserable PhD students. It sucks, don’t do it unless you have to. Your PhD topic should be yours; you should love it inside and out. If you don’t dream about it and get a shiver of excitement when you think about the book you will publish at the end, just walk away because you will be miserable for the next big chunk of your life. As someone once told me, it’s best that you love your PhD topic from the beginning because you will most certainly hate it by the end!

3. Apply to work with an awe-inspiring supervisor

Yes, your supervisor should be kind, helpful, supportive and all that. But they should also be successful, powerful and intimidating. If your supervisor is (relatively) famous, well published and successful, you might get your stomach in knots every time you meet with them but it will also set the bar high. And, of course, it looks good on your CV.

4. Be brave, say yes!

As a professor at UCLA once told me, “if you are not a little bit afraid every day, you are not trying hard enough.” When you begin your PhD, regardless of where you came from, who you are or what you are think you are capable of, roll into town like Clint Eastwood after his saddlebags full of cash got jacked. This is seminal opportunity to redefine yourself as a force to be reckoned with and you should take it. Tell everyone that you intend to publish like crazy and attend every conference and then do it! When someone asks you whether you want to be involved with projects, say yesssss! with ridiculous enthusiasm. Be infectious about your passion for everything great. Propose ridiculous projects, take the lead on things. As my Dad always told me, “what the hell, why not just run it up the flagpole and see who salutes it?”

5. Network ruthlessly

In your first year especially, sign up for everything that looks remotely interesting, seminars, conferences, workshops, whatever, and network like crazy. Work the room at all of these events, make it known that you are one the scene and will be seen. When you attend talks, contribute something, even just one-on-one after the talk. Think back to high school. Do you remember being embarrassed about contributions you made? I don’t either. Just go for it. People will probably not remember if you say something daft, but they will remember that you got involved and were confident about saying something daft and that’s fun anyway.

Email people when and where you can to ask for papers you can’t find, let them know you are passing though town and would like to stop by and introduce yourself, comment on their blogs and send them your publications. All of it shows that you are active and engaged and will help to make the right contacts.

6. Read, watch, listen to your favourite authors through and through. Then go meet them!

Let me demystify this further – the most famous academics in the world are just people. They like it when you call them and tell them their work is awesome and you want to have coffee, buy them a beer or interview them for a video project. When you get to meet with them (it almost never fails, just ask), tell them that you would like to get involved with anything they are doing. Offering your services (for free sometimes yes) on their projects as a photographer, field goon, transcriber, whatever is a great way to get to know them. If you really like their work, it will be fun anyway. It’s also (surprise!) good for your CV.

7. Get organized

Okay so you’re in your PhD program, you’re getting involved, downloading articles, taking a bunch of notes in your Moleskin notebook, feeling all smug. Your life is now your PhD. There are going to be ups and down here, believe me (lucky up today after a long night of epic trespassing – woohoo!). In down times, my best suggestion is get organized. When I am cleaning my house, I am scared and retreating. When I have pulled all my books down and am organising them by thesis chapter, please take me out for a beer because I am slipping into the abyss.

But that time can be really useful. The need to have your shit together applies to your computer files and physical notes, books, article, field documents, whatever. I assure you that, however OCD it may appear, a militantly organized PhD is far less intimidating than your piles of scraps of notes and cameras full of pictures from the field last year you never downloaded. Seriously, if I get one more friend calling me saying, “I had all these pictures from the field but the hard drive doesn’t work any more…” Just take a weekend, strip everything down to the bone and create the space you need to work and an effective system to keep the rhythm and flow going. Remember, this may be the only time in your life that you have 3 years to invest in a project that is all yours with (almost) complete freedom. Create your own workspace heaven, however you need to do that.

If you have a Mac, I will suggest 3 programs that will change your life: Endnote, Super Duper! and Papers. Get them and use them. If you don’t have a Mac, stop wasting your time dicking around with that retard of a PC and get one. And get an iPhone to take notes, photos, etc when and where you can. I have written roughly 1/6 of my thesis on my iPhone while on the London Underground. In terms of your PhD (or any self-motivated project) productivity, efficiency and organization trumps your need to “fight the man”, make a statement, or whatever it is you are asserting by using that clunky machine. But, whatever you use, BACK IT ALL UP! Once a week at the least. Better yet, once a month give a third copy to your supervisor to hide in their office. They like it when you entangle them in your paranoia, don’t worry.

8. Mix it up

The old idea of breaking your PhD into three isolated sections of reading, doing and writing is stale and boring. As Alf Rehn scribbles (see endnote) “one definite upside to a frontal lobotomy is focus, and you should keep this in mind when your supervisor talks about focus.” Go do your fieldwork whenever you want/can. Take your reading with you. When you have a lull, hit the library hard or go read on the beach with a cocktail. Write constantly, ferociously, channel Kerouac writing on the road until you burn out. Maybe it doesn’t look anything like “thesis” writing but that doesn’t matter – you never know what is going to be valuable 3 years down the road or what weird little gem will be hiding in that mania. The trick is, I think, when you are inspired to do any of these things, do them. Follow passion first and foremost. Do valuable things that have little or nothing to do with your PhD. Be utterly busy with everything awesome and worthwhile. Which, by the way, looks awesome on your CV.

9. Treat your PhD like a (really cool) job

Make no mistake – if you have full funding and you spend the majority of your day playing World of Warcraft (unless it’s your research topic), you are an asshole. A PhD is a job. You are paid to do something and you should, just as you would if you were getting paid for any other job, put in 40 hours a week on it. I mean, seriously, if your university has invested a big chunk of change supporting you, what are you giving back? And please don’t say a thesis. No one cares about your thesis. But they are all watching what you do outside of it, that is the real marker of a rockstar student. In the end, if you developed a thesis topic that blends work and play, fun and critical engagement, home and field, than you won’t notice that you work endless hours anyway (I just chuckled to myself, realising I was writing this a 9pm on a Sunday night).

10. Present your work (in the right places!)

Connected to this (no) work ethic is the impetus to present your work. Do present. Based on what I have heard, 2 presentations a year is a fine minimum bar. But keep in mind that presenting will not get you a job (as publications will) and does require a lot of effort. Sometimes, you might get a book chapter or special issue article out of it but you usually don’t know this until afterwards and book chapters are not as valuable as journal articles in the end anyway. Try to send abstracts for chapters for section you need to write, using the pressure as motivation to get on with it.

Contrary to popular belief, presenting at small conferences (20-30 people) will do more for your career that large ones I think, though the large ones often have better parties and this should obviously be taken into consideration. I say do one of each every year. Also, before your PhD is over, make sure you organize at least one session at a conference. It’s not that hard and it shows that you a more driven than most. And it’s fun. And, you guessed it, it looks good on your CV.

11. Publish or perish

It’s not a joke people. If your supervisor told you that you shouldn’t worry about publishing until you are done with your PhD, they are sabotaging your career and you should slash their tyres in retaliation. Just think of it this way – when you graduate, you will graduate that year with a couple thousand people (just in the UK) who have the same degree you do. There will be about 12 academic jobs that year if we are lucky. The new minimum bar for a job after your PhD is 2 publications in high-ranking journals. I often publish in other places, sideline journals, online magazines, interviews on other people’s blogs, etc. but these are always in addition to my primary work thread. My best advice, passed on from my magnificent supervisor, Tim Cresswell, is to write each chapter of your thesis first as an article, submit it and then fold it back into the thesis after it gets published. Not only do you get publications out of it, you get comments and feedback on your work before it even makes it into the thesis. For instance, what will largely be my methods chapter (chapter 2) is now published in Progress in Human Geography and chapters 3 and 4 are sitting with reviewers right now at other journals. Your supervisor will love you for all the marking you saved them. Not to mention how much they are going to love your 7-page CV (just kidding, that’s obnoxious – see mine)!

If this all sounds mad, let me assure you that despite our wonderful moments of collaboration, this is a competition. Coming out on top requires a bit of strategising, just be sure not to become so entrenched that you pull the ladder up behind you like the current UK government administration is doing. Succeed so we can all succeed. It’s always better to create a job than to get one anyway so go forth, kick ass, and create new opportunities.

12. Write diversely, work creatively

The publishing system completely blows and does not acknowledge, for the most part, that people work in different ways. I know that many people are not the best writers (me included) or work more productively in another media or format (me included). Other people are better at writing, say, fiction, than academic articles. I say go for it. As long as you hit your bar of two journal articles in high-ranking journals, you should spend the rest of the time doing whatever you love. Just make sure you balance the time you spend doing to the time you spend producing. For instance, I have three writing outlets to keep me producing. One is this blog, for half-baked and still formulating thoughts (okay haters?!), one is popular publication for those moments when I write about my direct experiences or try new creative stuff, the last is my academic publications where I exercise the full force of my abilities. I also juggle writing, obviously, with photography and videography. The most important rule here is what my supervisor told me at the beginning of my PhD: do what you love and keep doing it. When you love your work, it shows.

Connected to this, I want to just mention that being a perfectionist is crippling. In the wise words on my friend Adam Fish in anthropology at UCLA, “get into it, get on with it and get over it.”

13. Cultivate a public image

If you Google yourself right now and get no results, you are failing your PhD. Like it or not, your Google ranking is just as important as your publications or, in a real life analogy, your credit rating. It requires active work to bump up the things you want on that list and push others down. Not to say that even bad press can be good at times. A recent blog posting I posted infuriated a whole bunch of people and drove 1200 hits to my blog in 2 days. I say that’s a victory (thanks, naysayers!). You also have to destroy anyone’s ranking with the same name as yours or change your name (I became Bradley L. Garrett at the start of my PhD because I couldn’t compete with this guy). Be sensible but ruthless about this. A blog is the single best way to have a strong public image but also be sure to keep your university webpage up to date as well. Get on Twitter and Facebook, Academia.edu, LinkedIn etc. if you are not already and use them as publishing and promotion platforms and to push other people with your name down the list until they are publicly dead. It works. Oh, by the way that CV I keep mentioning? Make sure it is hyperlinked, updated, formatted beautifully and all over the internet. It works wonders.

Also, keep those connections in mind you made back in the beginning. Collaborating on public projects with noted scholars and artists based on those earlier relationships will help immensely. For instance, my documentary urban explorers, quests for myth, mystery and meaning connected my research to the work of Caitlin DeSilvey, Hayden Lorimer, Tim Edensor, Alastair Bonnett and David Pinder. In addition to getting the fantastic opportunity to meet and work with them, their names are indelibly attached to mine online (in fact, the last time I saw Caitlin she told me “I was a little dismayed when I Googled my name and your blog was the second hit!”).  Being an epiphyte can be very valuable. Seek these collaborations wherever possible and lock them down.

14. Protect your time

Remember in the first year when I told you to network with everyone? Forget that in your third year. If you did this well, they are watching you now. What you now need to show them if that you are not just going to show up to their conferences and make contributions and pitch cool projects that only a slightly-weird postgrad could dream up, you are now going to effectively guard your time to be sure you can produce the best work possible during your PhD (my current moment). If there’s a really good offer, like an invitation to speak at an important and relevant conference, of course, take it. But do not, under any circumstances, go to conferences, workshops or events where you have no funding to attend or are not presenting something, it’s just a time drain for the most part. And it, frankly, looks a little sad this late in the game. Participate or get back to your main thread!

More importantly, you have to protect your day-to-day time with extreme militancy. Unsubscribe from as much crap as you can to liberate your inbox for work, set-up email filters, learn to turn off your phone and wireless connection when you need to. Tell your friends they can only come over if they proofread your new article (just kidding). Stop spending worktime trolling through your friends facebook pages. I once called my brother Pip moaning because I was getting 130 emails a day and couldn’t keep up with them, let alone get to the “real” work. Pip (who owns a very successful cabinet company) told me,

“look bro, there’s a big difference between being productive and being active. Productive is getting the shit done you definitively set forth to get done in a particular ‘work’ session, while keeping in mind that there is nothing else that matters other than what is on that list. Granted other distractions (non-list items) are sure to and will arise, phone calls, e-mails, whatever… Fuck ‘em… and realize that ignoring them until your session is over will not be the end of the world… that’s productive. Being active on the other hand is doing anything else not on the list, regardless of how ‘busy’ you think you are are.”

So after you have gotten organized and handled your business, take time off. Lot’s of it, in big blocks. Reward yourself at the end of everyday with a big spliff and bad TV, and take a week or two off every few months. Just make sure you deserve it. If you don’t, lash yourself and eat only lettuce for a day (no don’t do that). This the joy and the curse of being your own boss – you’re supervisor will probably not tell you you don’t deserve the holiday you’re taking. One last thought here on being your own boss. Realize you can work wherever you want. If you feel like going off the snowy Swedish wilderness to drink beer in a hot tub and write for a few weeks (I did!), you should. No one can stop you but yourself.

15. Prepare for life after

As much as your PhD may dominate your life (if you’re doing it right), by the end of your 2nd year, you need to start thinking about the next step. And the game starts all over again. Go hit the streets for coffees, meet and re-meet all those brilliant people you have collaborated with and followed in the past few years. Let them know that you are ready for the next step and want that post-doc or whatever. Of course, no matter how good I feel about my PhD at the moment, whether or not I have been successful at the next step of this game remains to be seen!

My last bit of advice is the most important. Love every minute. We could never be in a position of more privilege than we are – 3 years to do whatever on earth we dream up. 3 years to make yourself a little wiser and (hopefully) mildly well-known writing a whole bunch of funky things for notable journals and telling people over drinks how important your research is while they roll their eyes. This is the best job in the world. Make use of every minute as if it was your last, breathe it in through the belly and treat each day as sacred.

Good luck everyone – hope this was more useful than strange!

___________________________________

For more on this topic, I suggest reading Alf Rehn’s fantastic free book The Scholar’s Progress.

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Millbank Burning

Posted by Bradley L. Garrett on Saturday Nov 13, 2010 Under Academia, Breaking and Entering, Celebration, Cultural Geography, Film, Freedom, Spatial Politics, Uncategorized

Malo Periculosam Libertatem Quam Quietum Servitium
-Rousseau, On The Social Contract

War is just when it is necessary; arms are permissible when there is no hope except in arms
-Machiavelli

Enough is

Enough

I was there on the front lines. I was proud to be there. The protests that took place on Wednesday in Central London were not the pinnacle of a movement but the tip of the iceberg. These protests, which I long predicted would turn violent, were a reasonable reaction from a populace that has been consistently victimised by the current administration. The smashing of public property at the Conservative Party headquarters was a balanced reaction to an administration who would rather cut funding for healthcare and education than for pork-barrel government projects and unjust wars waged abroad in our name.

Government officials who rob the poor to create wealth for the rich deserve to be chased from their workplace and inconvenienced for a few days. For what have been gained through non-violent means? Likely not even a public statement from Boris Johnson or David Cameron, which, insulting as those comments were (basically they told us “fuck you”, we’ll do what we want), at least made it clear we got their attention.

You are lucky we didn’t turn your party headquarters into a new social centre Cameron. Like it or not, this is what democracy looks like. This is not your government, these are not your streets, they are ours.

Articulation

Participation

Organisation

Risk

Comes before

Response

The media responses have been both positive and negative, though mostly sympathetic. One story that stands out in particular is the praise coming from lecturers at Goldsmith University for the protests who signed a statement saying “We the undersigned wish to congratulate staff and students on the magnificent anti-cuts demonstration this afternoon. We wish to condemn and distance ourselves from the from the divisive and, in our view, counterproductive statements issued by NUS and [national] UCU concerning the occupation of the Conservative Party HQ. The real violence in this situation relates not to a smashed window but to the destructive impact of the cuts.” The Millbank House occupation apparently included the particpation of one of the lecturers, Luke Cooper, as an organiser on the front lines. Royal Holloway bows to Luke Cooper and Goldsmiths – thank you for your support.

http://vimeo.com/16713574

By the end of the night, I was kettled in the street as I waited for a friend to show up from Manchester to lend his support. I was “stop and searched” under Section 60 of the UK Terrorism Act, a search which was ill-timed and badly carried out, despite the levity with which most officers carried it out.

Kettled by

Reasonable

And unreasonable cops

So what happens now? Well, as I said, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Look forward to walk-outs on November 24th. Unfortunately I will be away at a workshop that week in Dundee, but I trust you all will keep this fire burning.

This isn't over

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Nearly two years since the start of production, I am happy to announce that my video article Urban Explorers, Quests for Myth, Mystery and Meaning has just been released in the journal Geography Compass (Volume 4, Issue 10, pages 1448–1461, October 2010). Below is the video article followed by an annotated script and short piece written to support the film. I welcome any feedback you might have on either.

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Pure

Posted by Bradley L. Garrett on Saturday Aug 28, 2010 Under Archaeology, Cultural Geography, Freedom, Infrastructure, Psychogeography, Situationism, Urban Exploration

The expanding subterranean metropolitan world consumes a growing portion of urban capital to be engineered and sunk deep into the earth. It links city dwellers into giant lattices and webs of flow which curiously are rarely studied and usually taken for granted. – Graham 2000

Vision

3am. Antwerp. Pissing down rain. Lovingly cared for yet hopelessly abandoned, the Antwerp metro never came to be. Halfway down the 30 meter drop into the network, my hands burning down the slick rope, stomach twisted in knots, fear welled up in my throat with my held breath, I already know that I am in love. It’s that feeling that you have known each other for ages, finishing each other’s sentences, laughing until we cry about the absurdity of it all. That’s the moment that I knew you and I were destined for this encounter.

Lemon

Drop

The love affair with places begins as a tumultuous panicked grab, pinned against the wall in a desperate attempt to hold on to something we both know is sacred. The problem with smooth, clean glass, polished metal and concrete that there is nothing to hold on to, fingernails scratching in a desperate attempt to make a mark.

Here I find chunks of concrete delicately separated by little tendrils of green vines which grab at my legs as I repel down the wall, terrified that the rope hanging over the edge above is fraying against the sharp concrete edge of the drop zone. But she wouldn’t let that happen to me, she is already too curious to let this pass.

When I my feet touch the ground again, wet and smiling, I look to either side and realise that we have entered a new world, a world all our own. That is how I begin this love affair, with a tacit acknowledgement that neither I, or this beautiful unfinished beauty, will ever tell anyone about this love affair.

Conjunction

Junction

And yet those pictures in the scrapbook of our memories are just too much. All those photos of us laughing and playing together, falling in love for the first time. It was all so new, so pure. Not only do I need to experience that again, I need to share it. I need to scream out loud to the world that someday, somewhere, I found something sacred. So listen up planet earth: she was modern and stoic, sleek and brutal but knew sadness and tribulation just like us. I love her dearly and fear, above all else, that this was a one night stand.

Looking

For Love

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