Sneakers On Powerlines
Hey Geoff, how’s New Zealand these days?
Yeah it’s good, nice to get out, but good to come back to also.
Yeah i bet! so what got you started on the whole shoe from a powerline thing?
I guess the curiosity started from growing up in West Auckland, it’s a nice place but there’s certainly no shortage of sneakers hanging from the wires. I’d been photographing them for a while and decided to look into it a little further. The more I looked the more I found, so it just took off from there.
Shoes way up high ain’t easy to photograph is it?
Ha! It’s dodging the traffic that’s the hard part!
How was your ‘sole intentions’ show in auckland back in february?
It was cool. Pretty surreal seeing it all come together and hanging on the walls but it went down really well. I had some great feedback from people who had always wondered about the swinging shoes and I’ve heard from people since that they can’t help but notice them now. There was a film crew following the project which is due to screen in NZ later this year with the goal to get it travelling further so those that send in their photos and theories will get a chance to see them in the flesh. Getting it to New York would be mad, taking it to where the epidemic is most prolific!
How long did it take to pull together?
I’ve been photographing them since about 2005 and then I did the website and the Flickr group has been up a year or so. The mosaic will keep growing as more pics come in, so it’s definitely a ‘work in progress’.
I saw it’s now called ‘shoefiti’ which is a bit retarded. Do you have a snappy name for it?
True, ‘Shoefiti’ is a bit lame, but not as bad as ‘tossing the galosh’. ‘Shoe slinging’ or ‘Chucking Chucks’... the craft has many guises but I’d rather just call it ‘art’.
Really? Are you sure it’s art? I think of it more like a dog pissing on every tree in the street. We all like to leave our mark one way or another.
Ha ha.. yeah I can see where you’re coming from. I suppose we’ve all carved our name into a school desk at some stage. But you check out some of the shots that have been sent in and there’s no denying their artistic value. It’s a form of progressive street sculpture and personally I feel it adds some creativity to an otherwise uneventful skyline. Subjective I know, but art all the same.
You also hooked up with the Skewville boys?
Yes mate! They’re doing some crazy shit over there.I was fortunate enough to catch up with them last year and the street art they’re turning out is unreal. They take everything to the next level and the dog project is a perfect example – over 3000 pairs worldwide takes skills. We went on a few missions around the town and got some great footage for the project, it would be a dream to get them down this part of the world and launch a few dogs locally.
I get asked idiotic questions about drug dealers - it’s an urban myth that seemingly will never die.People are a bit gullible aren’t they?
Yeah bro, would a car thief park them in his driveway? It’s definitely one of the more ‘popular’ theories. I’ve heard some interesting spins on it though, the colour/style/number of kicks signifying the types of drugs and dealers stashing the goods inside the shoes for the handover. There may have been some truth in it once but I’d say the cops are all over it now.
My explanation is that there is none. But I was told once that it started with guys in the army after WWII. When they left camp for the last time, they threw their boots on the powerlines as a final gesture... have you heard that one?
I get that from the States even now! Soldiers returning from service and throwing their boots up to symbolise the end of duty. There were even reports of protesters in Canberra throwing shoes as a symbolic gesture in anti-landmine rallies. It’s politically motivated for sure. I guess like all good legends, the origins are hard to trace, it may go back to Pagan rituals such as ‘mât de cocagne’ or as TMAN from Toronto says “It’s derived from the ancient art of tossing the caber and updated for urban environments”. So blame it on the Scottish!
Any idea if it is actually illegal? Public nuisance? Vandalism. Destruction of public property... do you know what the power companies think?
Hard to say. I have a friend who was working for one of the power companies and we approached them for sponsorship but they were quite keen to distance themselves from the project. Perhaps that’s not a good sign of its legality.
I must confess, we did the whole street near our office once, over 100 shoes dangling in the wind. It took kids about a month but they got them down eventually by burning the laces with three broomsticks taped end to end. Crafty little bastards! have you heard some good stories during your investigations?
There’s been some gems sent in, mostly from the throwers themselves. Stories of drunken nights and picking on friends, all very entertaining. Some of the best stories have been the simplest though. Just getting sick of blisters and launching your shoes to the heavens in retaliation and then there’s the simple pleasure one has from seeing them swing ‘til the day they drop.
I think it says something about the nature of the human mind – namely that everything has to have a explanation and a reason for existence? why do you think people get hung up on it?
There’s definitely a fascination with the unknown, it’s human nature I guess. Everything needs a label. For myself it’s been a shift in focus and a good lesson in awareness. If you’re reading this or get to check out the exhibition, chances are you’ll start looking up more and notice them swinging more also. Sneakers from powerlines can mean as much or as little as you choose, they’re just another strand in the fabric of society... but every shoe that’s up has a story.