The teacup shatters still.
After more than a year since Project Senium was released, a few of us returned to the Asylum. It was the first time in quite a while and it was great, albeit bittersweet. I had thought about returning earlier, on anniversary dates for Project Senium, and considered blogging some pensive and reflective thoughts on a subject already steeped in nostalgia. I thought better of it. But when opportunity arose to revisit the asylum, I couldn’t pass it up, nostalgia be damned.
We spotted two cops almost immediately and didn’t overreact while we continued our exterior reconnaissance. By the time we had scoped out the exteriors, we had seen the cops leave. We then began looking for a non-destructive entrance to the main, 13-story building. It actually took us longer than we thought. We had to give them credit, they had boarded up the place pretty good. Well, almost.
Once we were in, we swam in the swirl of emotions that come in a place like this and that we have tried to communicate in Project Senium. Revisiting the asylum is never dull, but it has become just that: revisiting. The truth is that it stopped being urban exploration a long time ago. Exploring means, at the very least, going places that you have never been to yet. So after countless trips, surveying the vast majority of buildings, and filming Project Senium, the Asylum is now too familiar to earnestly call our visits exploration. It started that way and urban exploration remains a fascination, but I can’t help but feel that it no longer applies in a literal. Now our minds explore the very the relationship between the Asylum and time itself.
The Asylum offers other incentives beyond exploration. Familiarity does not dim the excitement of infiltrating locked and boarded buildings while avoiding detection by cops. Rather, familiarity adds a layer of enjoyment when you enter these abandoned spaces that house your own good memories of the first, second, tenth times you were there. For us, it is a refreshing return, known on a deeper and more intimate level than a cursory exploration, something that is only experienced with familiarity.
We slowly ascended up the 13 stories, bearing witness to the slow fade to every floor, most every room. Most of the furniture featured in Project Senium was now gone or destroyed and the murals once painted by patients were now defaced. I shared with my companion the words I had recently read from Victor Hugo, “Time is blind, man stupid.” The upper attic offered us a chance to get outside and message some of the others in the Project Senium crew that we wished they were here. We briefly discussed how the Asylum had spoiled us. By visiting the Asylum in better conditions in 2010/2012 and with over 100 buildings over 500 acres, any other location runs the risk of disappointing by comparison. We decided on a quick descent in order to visit the ward that housed the violent patients. So we repeated the process: avoid detection, find our way inside, explore every room, and take it all in.
Another thing that the Asylum offers is perspective. While numerous large buildings still sprawl the massive property, we have continually noted the rapid decline in conditions. (This was even the reason for pressing the creation of Project Senium.) You cannot visit the Asylum as it exists in Project Senium anymore. It has changed too much. Conversely, the Project Senium video would look very different if we started today. The technology has improved, but the Asylum has deteriorated. Interestingly, Project Senium was seemingly executed in something of a sweet spot between technology and conditions. Attempted any earlier, it would have been near impossible without the advances in drone and low-light technology. Attempted any later, and even less of the Asylum would be around for it. In spite of the rapid decay swallowing the Asylum, this perspective grants me gratitude for the unique opportunity we had to craft something both personal and meaningful.
Nonetheless, the teacup shatters still. And though we have long witnessed the breaking, I can’t help it if I’m not satisfied when it doesn’t gather itself up again.