by Fiona Candy 2013
In February 2013 I visited India with a group of other artists and designers undertaking research in relation to cotton and textile crafts. We wondered if the ancient handcraft tradition would show us the way to the future as India transforms to become one of the world’s leading economies. We called our project ‘Globalisation, Time and Imagination’ and we made artworks together and independently in relation to these themes.
I captured the video components of ‘Toeing the Line’ before, during and after the trip, and they record some of my everyday shoe wearing alongside exploration of imagined cultural identities: perhaps you spotted the ruby slippers, and the Indian wedding shoes? The sequence begins as I walk on a sun drenched rooftop terrace at the Vijay Vilas Palace in Mandvi in Gujarat. The palace was a residence of the King of Kutch, designed and built in the 1920’s in a beautiful setting on the coast of the Arabian Sea. The journey shifts locations between Manchester and Preston in Lancashire (where I live) and Ahmedabad, Bhuj, Jaipur and Mumbai. There is a long established connection between Lancashire and Gujarat via the cotton trade and several of the Lancashire locations in the video also have historic relationships with cotton spinning and weaving.
My academic research in design, fashion, health and wellbeing, has encouraged me to interpret footwear as ‘the grounding’ of everyday clothing style; as an artifact that protects, augments and adorns not just feet, but the entire human body by influencing related styles of dressing , moving and being. By directing the video camera onto myself I aimed to portray feet and shoes in action, being worn: literally shaping me as we stepped out together along life’s journey. In addition, the activity and process of filming at a downward angle made me intensely aware of the lines, markings, patterns, materials and textures of surfaces underfoot, their interpretations and sensory affect. I tried not to plan my walking direction, but to follow the ‘signs’ so that the camera recorded unexpected serendipity and what appeared to me as tacit, metaphysical messages at the interface of foot and ground. For instance when the shadows of a flock of flying birds crossed my path, a patch of intense green liquid appeared in a Mumbai gutter, I passed through a doorway in the old city of Ahmedabad, or when my pointy Jimmy Choo court shoes were matching (or going against) the pointing graphic arrows on tarmac.
I wore mass manufactured shoes each time, so the title ‘Toeing the Line’ aims to link to attitudes towards collective identities, as well as those of personal agency and resistance, and to the connections between clothing, time and place. Even though in every case the feet doing the walking are mine, the range of shoes and the associated styles of dress subtly suggest the presence and activity of different characters, cultural identities or even of different people toeing the lines. When I watch the video now it seems to me that only the barefoot recordings show my feet physically touching the ground, whereas in the shoe wearing sequences they appear to be almost floating above it, or sliding on its surface as I am carried along. Repeated viewing allows the examination of shifts of pace, the cadence of my footsteps and nuance of movement, as my feet beat the rhythm of embodied time. I hope the haunting quality of the music conveys the shifting, transient atmosphere of a fascinating journey….
Music: “Dolna” sung by Shreya Ghoshal, from the Bollywood movie ‘Morning Walk’ (2009),