The topic of “shoes“ opens up an entire cosmos of stories, individual experiences and preconceptions. Shoes symbolise passion and the search for perfection. They represent trivial needs, but at the same time are an attractive medium for artistic and scientific speculation. The subject of this exhibition, therefore, is the contemplation of shoes not only as casual fashion projects but as design objects that make their own autonomous statements.
The exhibition focuses on experimental shoe creations by designers, architects and artists. Most of these creations are one of a kind or have been produced only in small series. Many have been devised as small sculptures in their own right, as conceptional statements, or as provocations against the main stream. Each of them is distinguished by an unusual form, exclusive materials and an “emotional added value” – often to the detriment of its actual wearability. In view of the astounding creativity and diversity of artistic ideas, the functionality criterion is of secondary significance.
Where does this courage to create an unconventional shoe come from? A not inconsiderable role is certainly played by the design avant-garde of the fashion world, where art and fashion have long been intimately linked, with each camp utilising the other’s mechanisms. Fashion designers rely on limited production runs and direct cooperation with artists or borrow unabashedly from the treasure trove of art history.
On the other hand, when artists focus on shoes as the subject of their creative works, amazing autonomous artistic statements result. Shoes made of glass, ceramics and porcelain or conceived as part of an installation follow in the tradition of creative sculpture and thus assume positions outside the canons of the fashion market. Artists enjoy slipping into the role of the beholder. In conceptual works they target the complex relationship between society and the individual and focus on facets of modern consumer behaviour. In doing so they are working at the crossroad to social design, which represents an expansion in the sense of creating life forms and preserving values.
A further source of creativity is provided by new technologies and materials, which enable a previously unheard-of spectrum of forms, structures and surfaces. By means of computer-aided processes, used alone or in combination with traditional techniques, the appearance of a shoe can be modified step by step. Materials with new looks and new textures lend these shoes an almost futuristic aspect.
The sections of the exhibition reflect contemporary design positions and show a blurring of boundaries between design, handicrafts and art that has been observable for quite some time. The range of exhibition objects is correspondingly broad: from an architectonic approach through small sculptures to the critical exploration of ethical and moral aspects of art and society; from experiments with materials to the shoe as a fetish object – there is no question in present-day discourse to which a shoe of some kind does not have an appropriate answer.
An exhibition by KUNST HAUS WIEN in cooperation with the
GRASSI Museum für Angewandte Kunst Leipzig
Idea and concept: Sabine Epple
Curator in Vienna: Brigitte Woischnik
Co-Curator in Vienna: Liza Snook, www.VirtualShoeMuseum.com