If we are often defined by what we do,
What happens when we don’t do anything?
It’s fair to say that Burbex is having a mid-life crisis. The thing about mid-life crises is they are very shy beasts and tend to keep themselves well-hidden under the bed, and in coat pockets, all the places you search for your wallet or phone, but never find them.
The favorite habitat for a mid-life crisis is an abandoned building – the two have a lot in common. Some abandoned buildings were built decades ago for a specific purpose which they proudly performed day to day. This purpose as a steel mill, an amusement park, or twin skyscrapers full of promise, comes to define what they are. But what happens when you remove their purpose?
It is tragic when the production lines grind to a halt, the ferris wheel ceases to turn, and when huge dusty tumbleweeds roll across the 36th floor of a dream that could have been. No matter how iconic, not matter how much it was loved and enjoyed, when you remove the purpose, only a shattered sense of identity remains.
Burbex recently visited Harbin and Shanghai, cities not only on polar opposites of the country, but also polar opposites of culture. It is a stark comparison. Harbin is like the old man who sits in his chair smoking a million dusty cigarettes a day. He lost his purpose a lifetime ago, he’s been through his mid-life crisis and while he is still beautful in his decrepitude, he can’t find any purpose in the modern world.
Shanghai, his southern meimei (little sister), is having her own identity crisis. She’s the kind of woman who had a huge blowout party to celebrate her fortieth birthday, but since then then it has all been facelifts, botox, nip and tuck. Everyone can see the fine lines and crow’s feet, but she covers it all up with designer makeup – always something new for this old girl.
In the meantime, the abandoned buildings in the city, some already to succumbing to the gentle onset of decay and Alzheimer’s, slowly forgetting what their original purpose was, as aunties sneak in a plant rows of vegetables on tumbledown balconies, and string clothesline between flagpoles. Either find a new identity or get demolished.
A few places get lucky. They make a deal with the devil, giving up their soul, renovated and reborn with a new identity in the city, who they were is swept away in the rush to modernise. Plenty still remain for Burbex to comtemplate. If you haven’t guessed, he’s also lost his purpose recently, and he too is searching for a new identity.
If there are any devil’s out there, Burbex doesn’t mind signing his soul away in blood, he’s got plenty to spare as long as you don’t mind it coming from the back of his hand where he snagged it climbing over a barbed wire fence. In all seriousness, remember who you are when you go urbexing.
Burbex has left too much of his identity in abandoned buildings and he’s forgetting who he is. If you have any suggestions about a new purpose for Burbex, or maybe you want to come out and forget who you are, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, you can look forward to upcoming reports on Harbin Old Town and The Shanghai 2010 Expo Site. Also be sure to subscribe for all the latest videos from China and Japan in THE DEAD HOTEL SERIES.