A picture is worth a thousand words, but at Kodak 9, the bent up bottom corner of a metal door is priceless. That is if you haven't yet found the underground passage to what was once an adjacent building. A tunnel disappearing off into darkness at the end of a well-worn path of boot prints in the fresh snow. A tunnel atop a frozen mass of water that floods the first floor of the building perennially come spring. And once inside, the extent of the water damage is glaringly obvious, as is the fire damage. Graffiti is everywhere, it's truly beautiful. Everything about these moments is so ephemeral, these places we seek out and explore, not only our moments in them as individuals, but as a species. It's astonishing how quickly nature and man can team up to reclaim a space once it is no longer occupied. Kodak Building 9 is located in Toronto and is the last building still standing in what used to be a large complex that until it's closing in 2005 made up the Kodak processing plant. It is located on one of the largest pieces of undeveloped land in the GTA.
“Check out MANR...both sides” My wife Ninja IX exclaims behind me at the top of the stairs from the road we had spotted the building from earlier, noting the MANR tag hanging over the edge of the building. I was panting from the brief walk up a short staircase as it had only been a week since i quit smoking and we had just explored the Regal Constellation Hotel and climbed it's 15 storey tower a half an hour earlier. But that's for the next post. Boot-prints in the new snow circled the Kodak 9 building much-like a worn down track seen in the cages of zoo animals. Which direction you follow the tracks determines which P.O.E. you will be led to, at least on this day. We went left and discovered that some kind individual had done a civil service and bent up the bottom of a metal door enough for us to climb through. Boarded up and tagged by mostly toys on the outside, the true beauty of this gem is encapsulated within. Street art and graffiti now fills the space that once housed the employee buildings gym/auditorium, cafeteria, weight room and change rooms. The stage is collapsing, ceiling tiles falling, windows sharp and jagged. The cold bitter January wind whistles down the staircases to the rear of both stage right and stage left. Proof of several fires are evident here. Two beautiful pieces adorn the back wall of the stage and can be seen owning the stage from the projector room several stories up the other side. On stage, a chalk character drawn to a piece of wood amongst the electrical panels caught my eye, as i turned a message written on the wall at the bottom of the stairs stole my attention. In bright red marker, 'go up there'. And so we did. Staircases and hallways littered with broken glass fragments and paint chips crackling under our feet. Which of course is the soundtrack to abandoned urban exploration. The weight room is situated above the stage, the only proof of this is a sign that remains reading WEIGHTLIFTERS MUST USE A SPOTTER THE COMPANY CANNOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR...the rest of the sign is tagged over. On the next floor up is a small single room, again, nothing but graffiti and wind inhabiting these areas. Winding back down and around two stories for our entrance on stage for our second act, both of us, snapping photos and videotaping the vast amounts of colourful street art and graffiti, the peeling paint, the shattered glass.
As the second act began with our descent to the stage, it was ninja breaking the silence yet again...
“It's so chaotic” echoed from the staircase behind me in her soft voice. I didn't say anything. I walked to the front of the stage, looking out at the empty audience of tags and trash, mouth ajar, as if the right words were about to escape somehow. I had a brief thought about the laughter and the energy that once existed here. As i opened my mouth again to speak i was interrupted by a thunderous noise that echoed throughout the whole building, making us both jump. What sounded like god himself knocking down the ceiling was just a door being blown shut by the harsh winds that rush through the upper floors. As we began to laugh, two more sets of people came into Kodak 9 with cameras in tow, likely following our tracks, as we did the tracks before us. After a second run through the south-side of the building and a trip to the roof, we exited the same way we entered. Back outside the bent door, we got up from the ground and brushed off the snow before finishing the lap of the building. Led by the footprints of others right to the mouth of the tunnel, which of course I had to explore as well. This building is always accessible, bring flashlights and cameras.
The irony was not lost on us that Kodak closed this processing plant in 2005 because of advances in digital photography and it is now flocked to by a pilgrimage of digital photographers.
A quick wander back to the car and a quick drive to Symes Waste Transfer Station followed. But that too is for another post. In the meantime, enjoy these photos by The IX's of Kodak IX.