Attached to the walls of various buildings around the Soho neighborhood, in one of the inner boroughs of London, are several plaster casts of human noses of various sizes. The noses were set up by artist Rick Buckley in 1997 as a form of protest against the rising use of surveillance cameras across the streets of London. These security cameras were drawing criticisms from many different quarters because a lot of people viewed them as a huge step closer to the “Big Brother” society.
Inspired by the guerrilla activities of the Situationist —a mid-century organization of avant-garde social revolutionaries— Rick Buckley decided to install plaster of Paris and polymer casts of his own nose at various structures across London, right under the noses of “the liberty threatening CCTV Cameras.”
Photo credit: Javi/Flickr
Using glue, Buckley attached as many as 35 noses to important public buildings across the capital, taking care to match the color of each nose to the walls. After attaching a nose Buckley would take a picture as evidence of the mission accomplished, and quietly get away. Many of the noses were discovered within days and removed. Others survived.
Buckley kept his prank a secret until his girlfriend convinced him to come clean in 2011.
“I wanted to see if I could get away with it without being detected. The afterthought was that it would be great if these protrusions would become part of the structure themselves,” Buckley told the London Evening Standard.
Over the years the noses have given rise to —out of necessity of explaining their mysterious appearance— all sorts of urban myths. The most famous of these myth is that the “Seven Noses of Soho” would bring great wealth to anybody who can located all seven.
The most elaborate tales, however, were spun to explain the purpose and origins of the nose at the Admiralty Arch. One story goes that the nose was modeled after Napoleon’s, and soldiers mounted on horseback would rub the sculpture for good luck as they rode through Admiralty Arch. Another story held that the nose is a tribute to Duke of Wellington, who was renowned for possessing a large honker. Yet another tale claims that the nose is a spare for the statue of Nelson atop his column in Trafalgar Square opposite.
The seven noses are located, one each, at Endell Street, Floral Street, Admiralty Arch, Great Windmill Street, Meard Street, Bateman Street, and Dean Street.
Photo credit: John O'Shea/Flickr
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