A5 flyers and 300 pairs of second-hand shoes collected from the suburbs of a city, then loaned to visitors to wear for viewing an exhibition,
We leave our shoes at the entrance to a mosque, temple, Japanese restaurant, and certain friends’ houses with ‘special’ floors. We exchange our shoes for more appropriate footwear in bowling alleys and ice-skating rinks. All visitors to the exhibition will be invited to swap their shoes for a second-hand pair for the duration of their visit; a form of parade costume for their procession through the exhibition. A lowest common denominator for the art viewer. But it’s an imperceptible transformation (how will anyone know whether you are wearing your own footwear or the ‘official’ second-hand ones?).
The shoes, (donated through door to door collections as a result of distributing flyers in a community in the gallery’s city suburbs), directly influence the visitor’s walk through the show.
The wearer might interpret this as an act of cruelty or instead the loaned footwear could feel like a new pleasure. Will you teeter, or develop a gazelle-like agility? As a continuation of Chodzko’s interest in the transformative social space of the carnivalesque, M-path imagines that its process becomes, in the near future, a standard technique for improving the perception and understanding of art and its exhibition; a form of social media and image moderation. But also, as its title suggests, M-path contextualises this enhanced physiologically and psychologically embodied experience of the art object within a notion of empathy, the exchange of looks between our selves, an empathic attention towards both those included and excluded from the process.
M-path is remade each time it is exhibited; Each time exhibition ends the donated shoes go to charity.
M-path has been exhibited at various national and international venues including: Cornerhouse: Manchester (2006), Arnolfini; Bristol (2006), Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane (2007), MAMbo – Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, Bologna (2007), Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade (2007).
Excerpt from original transcript of interview with Veronica Kavass, ‘On spells, ants, islands and shoes’ Stretcher, www.stretcher.org, 2009
VK: In several of your projects, the installations are dependant on the charity of a local community. For example, M-path was made by the Bologna citizens who donated their shoes “to contemporary art”. Do you think the various levels of this community experience—donating shoes, seeing them in the museum space, walking in someone else’s shoes—allowed for these people to “recognise art being made” or that “they were making art”?
AC: I think the former is more interesting but I’m dubious about artworks whose sole purpose is to ‘teach’ those alienated by the art world that they could be having a go too, to reassure them that it’s not so scary. It seems complacent, reinforcing a notion that art is a rigid category that you can ‘join’ if you give up your old ways and ‘lighten up a little’. Instead, works I’ve made, including M-path, create a series of often contradictory questions that try to undermine – for me at least – the stability of the category of art. M-path proposes that a heightened perception of art requires the remote influence of those who appear to be outside it. It suggests that those of us who might feel at home in the art world perhaps have not been looking properly! Perhaps we need to make a change (or at least ritually, symbolically acknowledge the acceptance of a personal change so that art is able to do ‘its work’ – or so that we can enter into a dialogue with it). So, M-path echoes the shoe removal at entrances to mosques or temples. An act of humility, but a levelling and shared act. I’m wondering, through M-path, as viewers of art what are we really expecting will happen to us when we look at art? What level of engagement is required? How are we involved as spectators—is our looking making the work? And what are the politics of that engagement?
The other part of your question; to offer people the perception “that they were making art” is also really interesting for me; the question with M-path is also; where is the art object? Is it the shoes? Or is the act of loaning them or wearing them the artwork? Or is none of this art at all because the construct of M-path suggests that there is art only beyond art’s borders, its limitations.
VK: Did you manage to gauge the distance they felt to the artwork? Were they in it? Or did they even feel more estranged by it?
AC: I’m not sure of the response. I’m never sure of the response to my work! Some people seemed to find M-path funny, some disorienting, some disturbing…The focus of M-path is on this wearing of another’s shoes; something that generally has quite abject connotations. The wearers, through a self-consciousness and awkwardness of movement, suddenly become active participants in the gallery space – a sculptural presence and yet still partly maintaining an identity as viewer.
VK: Also, when I picture you in relation to the work—it is like you are behind a curtain but omnipresent. Are in your own shoes the whole time?
AC: With M-path I did wear the shoes each time I exhibited it, usually choosing the most awkward; some stilettos or a too-small pair of shower shoes! I feel very uncomfortable in galleries anyway – I’m never sure what I’m meant to be doing – so I welcomed this costume change. However, I don’t like hanging around my own work so I had very ambivalent feelings about being part of it in the exhibition space. The work each time should be a substitute for my own presence, which I’m generally always a bit confused about; an uncertain state I’m actively trying to provoke as both maker and viewer of the work.
A Plan for a Spell (2001)
Better Scenery (2000 – )
Deep Above (2016)
Ghost (2010 -)
Great Expectations (2015)
This Is It (1992)
Untitled Stile (Teenage Version) (1991)
You’ll see; this time it’ll be different (2013)
The Pickers (2009)
Props. For memorising the gravity of mime objects. (Flood) (2013) & Props. For memorising the gravity of mime objects. (Fire) (2013)
Night Shift (2004)
Mask Filter (2013)