In April last year, whilst scrolling aimlessly through Instagram at work, I came across a visual that I’ll never forget. You can watch exactly what I saw below:
The man featured in the video - skipping along the edge of a 72 floor building in Moscow - is Oleg Cricket. The Russian is best described as a nutter and he makes Evel Knieval and Robbie Madison look like boring soccer dads. A quick scroll through Oleg’s Instagram will show many similar parkour stunts performed at dizzying heights. Oleg is not alone in his pursuits though; he belongs to a rare breed of people known as “Urban Explorers” or “UrbEx’s”.
For those of you who don’t know, urban exploring involves infiltrating made man-structures such as skyscrapers, bridges and other off limits structures and photographing your adventures. Urban exploring has been around for some years now; however, it is only recently starting to gain notoriety – most likely helped by the rise of social media. Now, a year and a half later, not only is Oleg somehow still alive, but he is also starring in Red Bull’s online series UrbEx: Enter at Your Own Risk (Trailer below). Red Bull has gathered a group of the world’s most famous urban explores and documented as they risk life and limb to get inside above and around some of the mot forbidden places on Earth.
With the growing popularity of urban exploring, to be the very best the world’s most famous urban explorers must push themselves to stay ahead of the competition. In todays disposable media society this is becoming increasingly harder to do: To put this idea into perspective, the Gold Coast’s Movie World recently announced that they are introducing a new virtual reality roller-coaster – meaning we officially live in age where roller-coasters are not deemed exciting enough anymore. This results in people like Oleg pushing their own limits, but also the limits of what human beings are capable of in general and it makes for some of the most incredible footage I have ever seen.
For obvious reasons urban exploring has received a lot of negative attention by those who believe they are endangering themselves and other people. Whilst this is definitely true, watching the show you begin to realise there is a lot more to these people than just attention seekers with a death wish. UrbEx: Enter at Your Own Risk goes deeper into why these people do what they do and one character who offers a great insight into the thought processes of an urban explorer is Australia’s very own Bryce Wilson. You may recall in 2014 a ‘crazy person’ scaling a crane at the top of Melbourne’s 304m Prima Pearl building. The incident, which was posted to Facebook, caused a media frenzy and resulted in a backlash of public outrage. The man behind all this was Bryce Wilson and amazingly it was his first ever climb. Bryce was the victim of a torrent of online abuse and also had to face court over the incident. Following the release of Urban Ex, I spoke to Bryce about these issues and why he does what he does:
You received a lot of backlash following your Prima Pearl climb in 2014, how has the reception been following the release of UrbEx?
“The reception (to the release) has been great. I have had a lot of great people write to me with comments of support and encouragement for my work - Urban Exploration and otherwise - which is the complete opposite of what I expected leading up to the release. And on that note, I am extremely thankful and appreciative of all the support and kind words I have received!”
Do you feel as if people are now starting to understand why urban explorers do what they do and are beginning to receive more credit and respect for what they do?
“I don't think the majority of people in the public understand what motivates Urban Explorers to do what they do. People tend to react in adverse ways when presented with ideas or realities that may challenge or confront their own, and Urban Exploration is no exception to that. I have received a lot of support and encouragement for my work following my appearance in Red Bull’s UrbEx series, but I also know that many people do not like what I (or we) did, or do.”
Although in the show you state that you do not do what you do for the recognition, people like yourself are shining examples that you can do anything if you set your mind to it. A lot of people would find this very inspirational, do you believe urban explorers deserve to be lookedup to in the same way as say other celebrities?
“Social Media - and the Internet - are both the best and worst things to happen to our species. Encouraging and motivating people is really my overall goal. It’s cool to have people recognise you, or ‘Follow’ your work, but I do not aspire for that. It’s so easy to go through life doing what is comfortable, and just ‘existing’, but is that living? I do not consider myself any different than anybody else. I am human. The media may have called me ‘Spider-Man’, but ultimately I am just a human. Anybody can wake up one day and decide, ‘I am going to change my world,’ and do so, and that takes real courage. Climbing a crane isn’t courageous. Taking real risks in life and standing up for your dreams and pursuits is difficult, and that’s why so many people fold under pressure. We have to live our lives for us. One day this will all be over, and I refuse to live a life of mediocrity.”
UrbEx is now available to watch on Red Bull TV.