China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This paper explores creative and embodied engagement with the built environment through the photography of China-based ‘urban exploration’ (also known as ‘urbex’ or ‘UE’, and chengshi tanxian in Mandarin). Now a thriving global subculture, urban exploration was described in the 2005 field manual Access All Areas as ‘a sort of interior tourism that allows the curious-minded to discover a world of behind-the-scenes sights’ (Ninjalicious, 3). Explorers are often drawn towards an aesthetics of decay, which they find in abandoned and derelict manmade structures. Many cast themselves as renegade gatekeepers to a hidden city, and share digital documentation of their adventures by uploading written reports, photographs, and video footage to public online venues, generating a vast archive of intriguing secret sites.