Jihacheol Gudu (Subway Shoes) 2010
This piece was created on location in Seoul, South Korea in 2010. Seoul is often called the high heel capital of world, with more high heeled shoes bought and sold per capita than any other city on the planet. This was something I noticed while visiting Seoul, many women wearing heels for every activity you could imagine, some walking great distances in 6 inch or higher heels. This phenomeon is so prevausive in Korean culture, that the city of Seoul has taken great strides to make women happier by making the sidewalks and subway stations “high-heel friendly”. Marketing of women’s heels and fashion is intense in Seoul, and even in the underground subway stations, you cannot escape the myriad of high heeled shoe vendors. I was intrigued by this and decided to do a performance piece while in Seoul.
I purchased 4 pairs of high heels from the busiest subway station stores selling high heels. After purchasing each pair, I put them on, and then stood motionless in busy interchange during rush hour at the subway station. I wanted my stillness to serve as a counter-balance to the constant hustle and bustle of men and women moving around me. The camera focused on my feet, showing me in various states of power, discomfort, and unease.
The duration of my performances were set by the price of the shoes. I stood 1 minute for each 1,000 won the shoes cost me. So if the shoes cost 40,000 won, I stood for 40 minutes. The total performance time was 3 hours and 27 minutes.
I couldn’t help but draw connections to the history of foot binding, and other painful methods of body modification practiced by women throughout history. The long term affects of high heels on women’s feet has been throughly documented, yet many women still willingly subject themselves to this repetitive sort of torture. I wanted my motionless to evoke a question of “are we moving forward? Are we moving backward? Are we moving at all?”
Below is an installation video from the Kasamnida Exhibition at Gallery 175, in Seoul South Korea.