LookUp is the name of an architecture and photography project that gets people to look up and see what is around them. It began in Brighton in 2013, when Cara Courage posted images of her city, one day at a time, using a basic rule.
The criteria for inclusion is simple: has to be an architectural detail, permanent or temporary, old or new, has to be one storey up or more.
As she explains on the project’s Facebook page:
We do it [look up] when we go somewhere as a tourist, but perhaps less so in the place we call home, our gaze down, on our way somewhere, thinking about our everyday things.
She crowdsourced the idea. Lookup spread to Canterbury, Cardiff, Chicago, Croydon, Hastings, Indianapolis, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Margate, Prague and Toronto.
It also reached Ireland, both sides of the Border. She herself posted many of her Dublin pics on the Twitter machine over the years:
— Cara Courage (@caracourage) October 20, 2013
— Cara Courage (@caracourage) May 27, 2015
But somewhere along the line the #DublinLookUp meme mutated into a rogue version. Or it was hijacked. Or something.
A fortnight ago a series of grey-and-gold posters, individually crafted, began popping up around town telling you to “Look up & put a sparkle in your step”.
If you did look up, you’d probably see a pair of shoes dangling from an overhead wire such as a phone line. And not just any smelly old pair of trainers either: these were gold, sparkling, sequinned, high-heeled shoes.
One pair appeared above the Lilliput Stores in Arbour Hill in Stoneybatter. By the time I got around to taking a photo of them the shoes had already gone. Bloody typical.
— Ciara Buckley (@ciaralbuckley) September 23, 2015
— Baxter (@daboybaxter) September 24, 2015
— Seán Earley (@seanearley) September 26, 2015
Shoes on a wire
All this got me thinking: what do shoes on a wire usually signify, if anything? There’s no single answer…
- Drug dealers / drug users / a crack house nearby (I think that might be an urban myth)
- Everyday high jinks
- A children’s street game
- A more formal boot throwing (along the lines of “welly wanging” competitions, which take place at ploughing championships)
- Bullying of the shoes’ owner
- A practical joke to play on drunks
- A time-honoured tradition on the last day of school
- Or on your last day in the army / navy
- Various adolescent rites of passage
- A more general signal that someone is leaving the town / village / ‘hood, moving on to something bigger and better
- A sign that you live near a few right eejits
- Or someone who wants to drive people demented worrying why he (it’s nearly always a he, isn’t it?) did this, and how they can’t remove the offending shoes because he would only track them down and kill them
- An informal memorial to a friend at a spot where they lost their life
- A reminder that a violent death occurred nearby
- The death of a leading “inner-city” gang member
- Gang turf demarcation lines or neutral territory
- A measure to protect a house from nasty ghosts
- A secret sign language used by tramps
- Somebody copying that 1997 film Wag the Dog, in which De Niro and Hoffman sling shoes over tree after tree as a “spontaneous” show of support for their manufactured war hero Sergeant Schumann (Woody Harrelson), who has purportedly been abandoned behind enemy lines (“discarded like an old shoe”) in a madey-uppy war in Albania
- Just a general bit of shoefiti, to the tune of Paolo Nutini’s “New Shoes”…
And while I was thinking about all this shoe-flinging stuff, a mate reminded me that chucking a shoe at someone is considered a major insult in many Arab cultures.
Remember that time the Iraqi cameraman threw two shoes at George W. Bush while the US president was in Baghdad? Bush ducked, the shoes missed, the slinger was arrested and incarcerated. Some reports say he was subsequently tortured. His name is Muntadhar al-Zaidi, and apparently one of his shoes ended up in a New York museum.
And when Tony Blair came to Easons bookshop in Dublin’s O’Connell Street for a book signing, he was hit by shoes and eggs.