20-23 May 2008
Sheffield Hallam University
Psalter Lane Campus
S11 8UZ, Sheffield
Opening Hours 10am – 6pm
I approached the photographs cautiously. It had been my decision to assemble a public exhibition of the evidence of my investigation, but the reality appeared to have an uncomfortable edge. I was trying to learn from previous inquiries, Sherlock Holmes’ search for Mr. Hosmer Angel’s identity and Sigmund Freud’s explorations of Dora’s hysteria. Like theirs, my case was a puzzling one. My search had produced plenty of clues; still, the culprit – seduction – was at large.
Seduction always eludes the grasp of those that attempt to confront it directly. Its character is volatile, often linked to moral, sexual and criminal concerns. Did I ever mention to you that Frank Sinatra was convicted of an offence of seduction? It usually operates in dual situations – it is always a matter of two – and involves the getting of another to do what it wants. But do not worry; force and coercion are not part of its elegant modus operandi. Instead, it will play with the victim’s free will. Sometimes, as the evidence shows, it may even be pleasurable. Do not be fooled, though, its power is mighty.
The art gallery is a place seduction likes to visit. This gathering of clues is, therefore, a kind of trap, a way of calling it into play. The images displayed are traces of a very particular seduction, for this is a serial offender we are dealing with. What we have before us would baffle Holmes and intrigue Freud. They are the remnants of one woman’s hysterical journey through contemporary shopping arcades with their obscene displays.
The crime, in this instance, is to repeatedly stop the woman in her tracks, making her unable to look elsewhere. This will cause her trouble, as she will lose precious time (apart from her free will, of course). She will be late wherever she has to go today, inevitably very late, as she cannot resist seduction’s call. What does the object want?
I shook my head and returned my gaze to the photographs of the young woman. It suddenly seemed more playful than criminal, reminding me of the attitude seduction takes. I wondered silently who was the victim and who was the perpetrator.
I shook my head again. This case of seduction was becoming complex but I knew I would only be able to solve it by locking eyes with it and falling into its tripping game. The more I attempted to understand it, the more I found myself playing its game.
* * *
With more gratitude than language can hold for Neil Scott’s comments on this exhibition text.
I have been completely swamped by this exhibition and feel I have retreated into the imaginary universe of projections and identifications, not really living in the real world. Tuesday is the opening and after Saturday, it will all come back to a more or less normal routine, where I will be able to engage with other people. An exhibition is an essentially narcissistic thing to do and, as this is done in the context of my PhD, I have had to take care of all aspects, from invites, to mailouts, to gallery plans to private view drinks. Still a lot to do…
Occasionally, however, I have received little pricks that life outside of my head continues and yesterday’s email, kindly sent to me by Linda, made me want to engage with the world again. A good feeling (thanks, Linda). The email in question was a link to a Guardian article which, as it is not too long, I reproduce here:
Keep it zipped – the shoe of the season
Thursday May 15 2008
For those of you who may be a little behind with this month’s glossy magazines and weekend supplements, here is the digested read: if you don’t own these shoes, you are a loser. Granted, they don’t spell it out quite as starkly as that, but the message is nonetheless pretty clear, such is the ubiquity of Christian Louboutin’s zippy Rodita sandal, currently being snatched off shelves everywhere even at a strikingly credit-crunch-proof £405. What may look to you like a brightly coloured zip sewn on to an implausibly high heel is, in fact, the shoe of the season.
The very absurdity of this shoe is, of course, what makes it special. There is no longer anything remarkable about a woman with a shoe fetish. Quite the contrary: being obsessed with Manolos/blowing the rent on Choos has become a Girl Guide badge of belonging for the modern woman. Love of shoes has become the most boring cliche of modern womanhood. If you don’t agree, try buying a birthday card for a woman between the ages of 20 and 70, and you will see what I mean: when you discount the cards that have footballs/pints of beer on them, and ignore the ones that feature either Bratz or sentimental poetry in swirly handwriting, what you are left with is an endless selection of pictures of shoes.
As fancy shoes have become ubiquitous, fashion has had to edge further into crazyland just to keep a respectable distance from the masses. Note that these zippy numbers are by Christian Louboutin: just as a gourmet in a chocolate shop might demand Valrhona or Amedei over Green & Blacks in order to signal connoisseurship, the hardcore shoe obsessive likes to namecheck Louboutin rather than, say, Dior or Prada, in order to signal her refinement. They are ankle-breakingly precarious, endowed with enough hardware to set off security alarms at 20 paces and dizzily high. But when the girl next door is wearing 4in patent slingbacks, what can a fashion victim do?
Copyright Guardian News and Media Limited
Contrary to what many people may think, I am not a Manolo girl (I am definitely a Carry girl, but not a Manolo girl). While I admire most of the Maestro’s designs, his falls have also been spectacular. I loved his exhibition at the Design Museum, but that was pure theatricality, as it made the shoes reveal themselves as something other than what they are known empirically to be… The shoes were more than shoes.
Outside of the gallery space, however, Blahnik’s works are, well, too goody-two-shoes, despite the pun. Now Louboutin has also had spectacular falls, and the Rodita sandal is nowhere near the revered peep toe platforms. Louboutin, however, has a number of things going for him, applicable to all designs. First is the fact that his inspiration seems to come from a relationship to perversion, to deviant thoughts about shoes. This is best exemplified in his collaboration with the master of perversion, David Lynch. Second is the way this design trait manifests itself in his trademark red sole. Whatever one is wearing on the top part of one’s feet, underneath is a world of perfect red, only visible to the knowledgeable and the attentive. I have never wore Louboutin’s myself (a dream) but I suspect it must be like wearing garters, or ethereal underwear. It is this particular shade of red that will always make Louboutin’s designs right.