project look up – before

It’s 5.30pm on a Tuesday afternoon in Melbourne and pouring out of office buildings all over the CBD are torrents of workers leaving their jobs for the evening. Grey faced and grey-suited these moving tides of people are the living incarnation of Brack’s “Collins St” painting, employable spectres that walk with shoulders hunched and eyes down, rudely muscling each other off the pavement as they try to catch the 5.48.

Seen from above, the CBD at this time is a seething grid of activity, bodies moving in time to the traffic-light directions in a dogged, deadened progression towards train stations or tram stops. Smiles vanish as collars are turned up against the wind. In a way, it all seems to be in place, even in their rushed return to the great, lackadaisical expanse of suburbia, these workers seem admirably industrious. Gazing down from above it’s a thrillingly dull procession of ants with briefcases.

But what if we were to reverse the perspective? What if, suddenly, a single office drone halted in their tracks, turned their face heavenwards and looked up? What would they see?

Perhaps, still in the pulsating push of commuter polyester, they would catch sight of a great orchestral movement of clouds full with the promise of Melburnian winter. Or maybe they’d spy a roof garden or the faded patina of an enormous advertisement spruiking some forgotten company’s wares. You never know, in that quick glance skyward their eyes might trail across another office block, only to make contact with a fellow worker, still stuck on the eighteenth floor, bathed in fluorescent light and gazing out wistfully at the passers-by.

Even more exciting, however, is the potential for perspective. In the insignificant act of lifting your head and throwing your eyes open you might take in the sky, the buildings, the air, the planes overhead and the trains underneath and, finally, the soothing, blinding acknowledgment that all of these things are bigger than you and your problems could possibly be. And at the same time, smaller.

It’s as simple as all that: look up.

By Eleanor Jackson

Eleanor Jackson is a Filipino Australian poet, performer, arts producer, cyclist, writer, gal about town, feminist, freewheeler, and friend.

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