Explore Everything is the culmination of several years of ethnographic research conducted by Bradley Garrett while embedded with urban exploration groups.
Garrett starts his journey as an urbex peon struggling to gain access to the community. By the end of the book he’s an established member of the London Consolidation Crew, an infamous infiltration crew whose notorious conquests include the Kingsway Telephone Exchange and the London Post Office Railway.
Urbex appears a relatively recent phenomenon thanks to increased media interest, but Explore Everything highlights the rich historical backdrop of the present incarnation. Garrett offers historical examples from the Australian Cave Clan in the 1980s and the Night Climbers of Cambridge in the 1930s to John Hollingshead and Félix Nadar who explored the sewers of London and the Catacombs of Paris respectively in the 19th century.
The book introduces theoretical frameworks to explain the appeal of urbex to its practitioners and the ever growing popular audience, drawing on theorists as diverse as Guy Debord, Henri Lefebvre and George Herbert Mead. The most interesting is Garrett’s invocation of the concept of “edgework”, which was born out Stephen Lyng’s work on the sociology of risk-taking. The term was coined by Hunter S. Thompson to describe his own gonzo journalism.
Garrett deploys the concept to explain the desire to urbex:
[Edgework is] a blanket term for any activity undertaken by someone who actively seeks experiences that involve an abnormal potential for personal injury or death […] a negotiation between life and death, consciousness and unconsciousness, sanity and insanity.
Explore Everything is lavishly illustrated with photographs of Garrett’s explores and is far and away the most comprehensive academic examination of the global phenomena of urban exploration.