Art And Culture

Shoes Tell Stories

Shoes Tell Stories
Shoes Tell Stories

For the annual "Perspectives" showcase, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in the US is featuring a work by Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota. She installed Over the Continents at the pavilion of the Gallery last week. Hundreds of unpaired shoes each tied to a strand of red yarn make up the installation that opened Saturday, August 30, and will be on view through June 7, 2015, according to

Shiota's installation deals with how familiar objects gain and lose meaning, and what an object says about its owner. The artist describes objects such as shoes as acting like a “second skin,” containing the imprint of a person. “I was living in Germany and I went back to Japan and I put on my older shoes," she says. She found that her once familiar shoes no longer fit. "I was thinking, what is this gap between my feeling and my shoes, and I wanted to know." Shiota decided to explore that question through art and began asking around for shoes from friends, in newspapers, and on social media. She received 2,000 pairs, says an articles in The Washington post.

The Sackler installation, tailor-made to the space, consists of 350 shoes, each tied to a handwritten note about its owner. "It is concerning the absence of the body," curator Carol Huh says about the installation, "and how objects can resonate with some sort of absence."

Yarn Connection 

One shoe belonged to a boxer who wore it while training. A religious pilgrim wore another during visits to 33 temples.

"These are shoes with which I happily supported myself working on a small plot of land and producing lots of vegetables," says one note, translated from Japanese. Another one: "At the time when I took my father to the hospital he was wearing these shoes. After going to the hospital he lost consciousness. He did not wake up." 

Shiota and Huh say the yarn symbolizes the connection between humans, which can be terse, tangled or cut.

Shiota was born in Osaka in 1972 and has lived in Berlin since the 1990s. Her work often takes the form of large-scale installations and incorporates used objects and yarn. The original version of her “Perspectives” installation appeared in Japan in 2008.