Have you heard the latest criticism on Alexander McQueen’s 2010 Spring Show unveiled in Paris? Well, it is all about the shoes, what they do to the body, hurting, desire and the ability to walk. Something I have to hear constantly about my own collection of stilettos. Why, why, why is the eternal question. Incidentally, my ballet teacher has pointed out that high heels help with posture if we follow his basic exercises of core control.
The New York Times debates this question with care and a fair approach, in comparison to the Daily Mail. Have they never heard of fetishism, or of exhibitionism? Apparently not. Well, let them have crocs and uggs and look stupid.
Sometimes, this humble blog sounds like a death blog. All these R.I.P.s, with some personal ones I did not even mention… It is summer and it is time to change the tone, although what I am going to mention also involves death (death, the ultimate seducer, do you remember Baudrillard’s story in Samarkand?). This time, it is the death of shoes as potential objects of desire as stated by Manolo Blahnik over lunch. No, we did not have lunch together. The piece is called Lunch with… and the guest was Manolo Blahnik. I would love to invite him, though. I’d take him to Amazing Grazing at Abode and chat in Spanish. I’d love to have one hour with the maestro.
One of my students alerted me to the existence of a Shoe Tree in Newcastle’s Armstrong Park. The concept was new to me: it sounds like a pet cemetery, but in a tree and for shoes. She told me that the strange rituals people engage in are a real problem to the council, who has to take the shoes down and repair the tree’s branches regularly. So the location of the tree is either found by mistake, perseverance, or shared through word of mouth. You won’t find it in most guide books. Councils are funny places, though, trying to put order in an entropic conglomerate of people. In Glasgow, where I live, they have taken to flypost over already existing posters with the word “cancelled”. You can’t deny their humour. But back to shoes.
The Shoe Tree is not a Geordie phenomenon. They are everywhere! I can’t think of a more uncanny sight than hanged shoes. They are meant for walking, for being on the floor. When in trees, they are helpless, far away from where they can be of use, reachable only with great effort. Then, of course, there’s the death metaphor. When I see a pair of shoes tied and hanged on a power line, I smile. A drunken night, I think, a silly bet, a joke. A multiplication of this in a tree would freak me out. I attribute the feeling to the ritualistic side of the act, the homage element in it, the mourning. Shoes are objects with which we develop an intimate relationship. They are worn at most times (one shouldn’t go outside without them), they remain there despite the weather and they are a real statement of the person sporting them. They help us get where we want, literally and metaphorically. I don’t drive, so my shoes are like the poor woman’s car. I polish them, wash them, repair them with care. It is sad when I have to throw them away so the idea of a ritual is very appealing.
Still, I can only relate to the trees on a distant level. Think about it. In order to throw a shoe and catch it in a branch, it has to have laces. Not the kind of shoes I normally wear. The trees are more “Sneaker Trees“ or ”Walking Boots Trees“. They are inspiring, though, and I can’t help to think of a Stiletto Tree. Imagine the glitter, the violence of the heels, the red reflection of the Louboutin soles, the typographic sketches of those well-known logos, the parties, the stories, the seductions. What a sight. I shiver just picturing it.
Co-founded by the Dutch architect Rem D. Koolhaas (yes, he’s the nephew of Mr. OMA himself) and shoe-maker Galahad JD Clark, United Nude elevates the shoe to a true art form—where design, architecture and abstraction meet footwear. With an aim to create nothing less than contemporary iconic shoe design, “the products are conceptual: re-interpretations of architecture, archetypes, or existing classic objects.” Like, for example, the sexy form of the Mobius shoe (pictured), which is inspired by the frame of Mies Van der Rohe’s famed Barcelona chair. Made from a single strip of high-tech Kevlar, the sole and upper are an unbroken form.
Isn’t this a wonderful example of shoes as architecture? Lacanian architecture, for that matter. I mean, a möebius shoe… The possibilities are unimaginable… At work, or at a party where I don’t know many people, I sit quietly somewhere apart. I daydream, and when I daydream I have to do something with my hands so I find myself passing a finger through the strip of my shoe, from inside to outside in one boundary component. Where did it change, how did it happen? Why is the world full of such fascinating things as shoes, möebius strips, déjà vus,mispronounced words? This is shoe is the closest I have ever been to experiencing the relationship between desire and seduction…
Something strange happens in one’s body when they realise that a fantasy one has had for a while comes true. This is the disturbance –akin to an old box being opened– I experienced yesterday, when I clicked on the link my friend Emilio sent me.
The Galerie du Passage in Paris has a new show on. First blow to my fantasy: the Galerie is situated in one of the old shopping arcades in Paris, a favourite type of construction of mine, as a number of boundaries –outside and in, consumption and contemplation– are blurred. Arcades contain shops that invite you to look more than to buy. Once a flâneuse has crossed the threshold, the arch that represents the entry to this strange street, she is in the realm of visual seduction.
The works shown the Galerie du Passage are David Lynch’s photographs. Second blow to the fantasy: if there is a universe I would like to belong to, that is the Lynchian universe, with its schizophrenics, its personality changes, its bends in time and its Rabbit families. Lynch not only understands my unconscious, but can also represent it with unsettling accuracy.
David Lynch is photographing impossible shoes designed by Christian Louboutin. Third blow to my fantasy: while Blahnik is the uncontested maestro of shoe making in terms of object, Louboutin’s red soles and peep toes make me dream of the type of woman I could be, the type of femininity I know is within me (although hidden behind plimsolls). My red, like in those shoes, is underneath.
There is something strange about the beaten up box that has been opened, something to do with recognition, yet estrangement. Something as if the image the mirror returned was me, but not quite. Something delicate has been added, or else take away. I cannot quite put my finger on it. What do you want from me, fantasy, what do you want?
With thanks to Emilio Cendón, the best photographer alive, and one of the most charming persons I know.
A month and a half has elapsed since my last post and I crave giving back to this journal its daily name. Summer holidays have been and gone, a new academic year has started both for the teacher and the student in me. Summer was surprisingly active: two of my supervisors found wonderful new jobs, making the what-am-I-going-to-do alarm go off (false alarm, as it turned out, at least for the time being); I have taken around 130 photographs for the project, around which 10-12 are usable for my forthcoming show in May; I have learned to drive and drove to a Scottish isle and back without more than a scratch to the bumper of my hired car; I have written 8,000 words for the most painstakingly difficult paper which I am not yet sure if it will be publish although I now know that writing my thesis, after what I have been through, should be half a doddle; I wrote another short article for an exhibition catalogue; my parents visited and brought anxiety; I secured funding for the 2007 APCS conference and will talk about mothers, daughters and cryptophores in New Brunswick (2-4 November); I am in the process of considering ending my analysis for financial reasons.
Now you see why it has been difficult to keep any record of it all while it was happening. This journal, at least, got the summer holiday I did not manage. But now I am back, not exactly refreshed but inspired. This is mainly due to my photographs. I can’t yet put them in here as they need a couple of tweaks here an there. Instead, I will leave you with the wonderful Fischli and Weiss, whose recent catalogue has provided a humorous but poignant context for my own summer art-making.
Fischli & Weiss, Equilibres – Quiet afternoon (Flirtation, love etc.)
Says it all.
Since my last post, I have been immersed in a kind of summer langueur, taking photographs, avoiding writing and feeling guilty about it. When paper deadlines loom, the internet is, of course, the best distraction. “Oh! I am going to see what Mark Lewis is up to…” Occasionally, one of those screen thoughts will bring about something useful, something thought provoking, something that will activate the will to SAY SOMETHING in writing. My latest discovery was sent to me by Neil Scott, companion of distractions, and provides further evidence of the link between art, shoes and fucking. I say fucking rather than sex, because that is the literal word used in all the examples I have gathered. I suspect that the specific connotations of the word (with all its meanings, even its contradictions) have to be taken into account.
See what I mean? This show, which happened in 2006, involved various artists decorating wedge shoes for charity. The results, at least what I can gather from the website, is not seductive in itself, but I was quite attracted to the subliminal messages of the titles. Perhaps that is just creative energy in full flow, as the artists had very little latitude with the form of the shoe (almost colouring exercise?) but full opportunities with the language accompanying it.
Of course, this initiative further adds to the discussion Mike Press and I were having around disciplinary boundaries, in this case providing an example of crosses between art and design. The tension is evident, and more successfully negotiated in some examples than others. I like Peter Blake’s literal approach, but would only buy and wear Richard Evans’ clever play on popular culture. They would go very well with a dress I have… Sarah Lucas’s, for example, would not work in Glasgow, unless suitably varnished for its perpetual autumn (and that would defeat the purpose of the artist, like the encased Beuys one finds at the Guggenheim). Unless, of course, these shoes were NOT meant for walking but just to satisfy a scopophilic drive. Or a status one (I own a pair of Allen Jones’ boots etc). In the end, I suppose, it is all a matter of context.
I am an artist and writer. My recent practice performance, film, dance, photography and text, and my work has been performed, exhibited and published in many venues in Europe and the US. I have spoken at numerous conferences and events, including the Museum for the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, the Medical Museum in Copenhagen, College Arts Association and the Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society. When I am not following Freud, Lacan and Marx’s footsteps with my camera or creating performance works as part of my Athenaeum Research Fellowship at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, I teach postgraduate students at Transart Institute.