The shoe theme

February 24, 2009

Jane Frere, set designer and co-deviser, writes

Shoes have always held a great fascination for me as a artist.
The humble shoe not only takes on the form of its wearer, but bears witness to that person’s journey through life. Shoes retain a memory, in a way become objects of nostalgia, and when the wearer has long since gone, for me the shoe retains an element of that person’s spirit, acts as a kind of portrait.

I first used shoes thematically in a promenade theatre design set in a disused shoe factory in the suburbs of Athens in 1992. The production “Woman at War” addressed the plight of refugees, primarily in that case from Bosnia. The shoes became a metaphor for the displaced.
A decade later I stumbled across shoes again when I made a succession of visits to the former Nazi concentration camp at Majdenek in Lublin, East Poland. I was so overwhelmed by the vast scale of the massed piles of shoes – testimony to the many thousands who died there – that I filmed them for a video installation.
Ironically it was in Majdanek that I conceived the idea for my art installation, “The Nakbah Project, Return of the Soul”, which relates to the consequences of the holocaust and the subsequent displacement of three quarter of a million Palestinians when the state of Israel was formed in 1948.
In Go to Gaza, Drink the Sea, the mountains of shoes can represent a desecrated landscape, pulverised by the bombardment of tonnes of explosives from air, land and sea. At the same time the shoes can have many meanings, symbolizing people both dead and alive.”