Shoe Christ (Compulsion to Refuse Something that Has Been Used)
Shoe Christ (Compulsion to Refuse Something that Has Been Used) is a sculpture made by visual artist Sadofsky (aka Petr Motycka), who is mainly known in connection with the artist collective Pode Bal. Shoe Christ is made of approximately 1444 used (and mostly single) shoes. The sculpture is more than 6m high, weights over 500kg and was originally created for the public space of Prague’s riverside, where it was shown from August 2010 till January 2011. Subsequently it was modified for the specific space of the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art where it is exhibited from January 29, 2011.
Shoe Christ is the author´s contribution to a classical genre of Western art – the theme of crucifixion. The sculpture displayed at DOX belongs to a broader context of Motyčka´s work focused on this topic. (e.g. Used Child Shoe Christ displayed during the Subvision Kunst Festival in Hamburg in 2009 and as a part of common project D.I.V.O. Institute in the Fridericianum Gallery in Kassel or a project called Personal Jesus, that is being developed by the artist for over 6 years.)
Shoes can be a vehicle of social status. The simple fact of „owning“ shoes once signified belonging to a higher social class. Contemporary shoes can signify the bearer’s cultural affinity. (e.g. Birkenstock sandals of hippies and New Age freaks, Doc Martens of punks and skinheads, branded trainers of mainstream lovers, cowboy boots of bikers and rockers or pointed snakeskin shoes worn by Prague’s Municipality clerks).
I have always been fascinated by shoes as well as by human feet. Their obvious sexuality mixes with aversion in certain people. Fetishism associated with shoes, intimate touches by feet, typical smells… Muslims are not allowed to enter a mosque wearing shoes and the throwing of a shoe is a means to express disgust. It is of no coincidence. Feet have a specific ambivalent sexuality for the way they look, for their clumsiness, smells and distinctive physicality. Feet are the space of objectification of the subject.
The fact that the sculpture is made of shoes that had been used is very important. 1444 worn shoes means that more than 1400 people and their stories are part of the Shoe Christ. Used things and especially shoes often evoke repulsion. There are not many people who buy second hand shoes, who want to wear shoes that have been worn by someone else. Shoes are a very personal property.
Shoes have become consumer goods and through their quantity and signifiers contribute to the overall image of consumer culture. Our cultural values and concepts increase their worth by being used. On the contrary, things produced by the same culture, lose their value the more used they are. We require pure matter and used ideas.
Our society does not want an illusion of originality, it needs the ritual of prayer or a repeated ditty to expiate evil thoughts. That´s the reason why we obsessively surround ourselves by things. The shoes in my installation are like rosary beads or the balls of the abacus.
Compulsion to refuse something that has been used is related to the tendency to refuse artworks or artistic procedures that are unoriginal in some way, by form or content. And all the while, the whole value-structure of Western society is directly based on constant repetition of conventions with near ritual obsession. This compulsion is a modernist neurosis.
Obsession and compulsion originate from distorted processing of ones experience, from tension between the profane and the sacred, creating desire for the forbidden. The difference between neurosis and artistic creation often starts with not refusing a thought which is normally considered as nonsense or absurd.
According to Sigmund Freud´s famous theory, our lives are essentially influenced by the way how we put up with our own shit during childhood. If this phase was retentive, we tend to be orderly, stubborn and need to control others. We need to collect, posses and amass things. Western society and its Christian tradition shows all these symptoms. If Freud was right, the task of historians would be to find out, when was it that we weren’t able to take that cultural shit.