Concealed shoes and a return to creepiness

In Edinburgh, Edinburgh College of Art, Rambling on October 1, 2013 at 11:11 am

Somehow, by complete fluke really, I found an article on concealing shoes. Admittedly, it’s largely concealed shoes from the 17th – 19th centuries and they’re largely hidden in more interesting places than an office, but hidden shoes are hidden shoes. So, a few snippets and then rambling – as always. Forgive the lack of page numbers.

‘All that is known for certain on this subject is that a large number of shoes, usually old and damaged, were concealed in various, unconventional locations within buildings’

‘Why were such shoes concealed and what were the concealers hoping to achieve?’

‘…both irrational and non-functional…’

Ritual (one of many definitions) – ‘A repetitive habitual pattern of consciously and deliberating performed symbolic actions employed for a specific function – usually for control, propitiate, protect from or communicate with the supernatural.’

‘The outside world was rife with dangers, populated with malevolent forms that the home required protection from.’

‘…anxiety over disturbing the shoes, ‘it’s a bit like opening a tomb isn’t it?”

(C. Haulbrook, 2013, ‘Ritual, Recycling and Recontextualisation: Putting The Concealed Shoe Into Context’, Cambridge Archeological Journal, 23, pp. 99-112)

In a very abbreviated form – there’s no written evidence from whenever they went about concealing shoes, so there’s some guesswork involved, but the gist of it is that hiding shoes was a way of warding off evil, of protecting a house/building and/or people. It seems to have been fairly secretive (the whole ‘not writing about it’ thing), but then writing about rituals (apparently, supposedly) defeats the point of doing it in the first place. It’s more than a bit ironic that rituals and ritual objects were used to ward off witchcraft – which would have been…rituals. Didn’t quite think that through.

Anyway. There’s been quite a lot of concealed shoes found, most of them have been in the ‘liminal’ spaces of buildings – the chimney, the attic and so on. I’m not quite sure that an unused office can be described as liminal, but then last October anyone could walk down that corridor, and it was kind of a threshold to offices (with locked doors) and doors to studios further down. So I suppose it was a threshold, boundary, of sorts. But leaving them in the middle of the floor isn’t really ‘concealed’, but that corridor was hardly crowded.


1. of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process

2. occupying a position at, or on both sides, a threshold or boundary.

Concealed shoes tend to be old and worn and almost unusable as footwear – so far so good, except my boots are perfectly useable still. But hiding a worm pair of shoes – imbued with their owner’s essence, or going back a bit their ‘soul’ if you will (now would be a great time to correct that to sole) – is supposed to protect. And shoes seem to crop up in folkore – and fairy tales – fairly often.

There’s also an interesting bit near the end of the article, occasionally when someone finds a concealed shoe they refuse to remove it, not wanting to disturb the protection, occasionally it’s replaced with a newer shoe if it is taken away and, in one case, having a taken a shoe away they wanted it back because there was (apparently – I’m sceptical) there was a sudden influx of bad luck.

Now, being…a bit of a worrier – what if I disturbed someone’s concealed shoe ritual thingy?  I was already a tiny bit worried that there’s someone walking round with very bruised toes after dropping something really heavy on them (the boots have got steel toe caps). Worse case scenario it’s like that scene in Amélie when she’s convinced each time she releases the shutter on her camera she causes a disaster…

Now the creepiness again – the walking with thing was kind of a way of keeping an eye on people, protecting them if you like, for the few moments they were within the space I was walking in. So for the very hypothetical proposal I have to write, perhaps I should replace the shoes and protect something with them. Pfft.

But that’s something I can’t do at the moment, at the moment I’m very fixated on the soles of these boots. Pattern! I don’t know why. I don’t like the feel of the leather (because it’s leather and a bit gross), and the soles look nice. The only bit that feels nice is where the leather has ripped and the steel toe bit is exposed, it’s weirdly soft. So the soles. Casts and imprints of soles – made by jumping, kicking, tapping and so on.











The plaster cast I thought was going to be terrible wasn’t actually that bad, but perhaps not worth a 25kg bag of plaster! And now I don’t feel like plaster anymore…crap. But clay is kinda fun, especially stamping on it/kicking it, also – if you wrap clay in cling film it’s one of the nicest feelings ever. Just…so nice. Which explains the clay in cling film. Out of those I think the little tiny ones are possibly going somewhere, small segments are nice and they’re colourful, which is always good. The yellow is painted clay, the darker blue is dried out play doh with some paint over the top and the other two are uncooked fimo. So they’re might be a fimo cooking day in the near future.

I’ve got the project space booked out this afternoon (so really all of this was filling time/sorting out what on earth I’m doing before a tutorial), I’m gonna try filming some stuff and see what happens. It’s week three, and documentation week. But I’ve been documenting mostly as I go, so yeah. That’s gonna go well. We’re ignoring that next week is week four and that we have a cross-year crit in week four. Week four does not exist.

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