Red Shoes

Artist: Elina Chauvet
Location: Juarez, Mexico
Year: 2009
Researcher: Adriana Rios Monsalve

On the 20th of August, 2009, Mexican architect and artist, Elina Chauvet, made an installation in memory of hundreds if not thousands of young women who disappeared, were tortured and then were killed in Juárez during 1990s and 2000s.A border city with the United States, Juárez, Mexico, has a population of nearly two thousand and is a free trade zone. This makes it vulnerable to drug trafficking and the town’s cheap labor is also used by American corporations. These factors combine to produce a culture of abuse, particularly towards women who work in the factories. The term ‘Femicide’ was coined in Juárez making it an iconic city and raising awareness all over the world about gender-driven violence, a situation that continues even today.

It is not the first time that a symbolic act of memory transcends the actual territory and the specific event it refers to. That is the case of Red Shoes, an installation replicated over 80 times since its first creation in 2009. Sometimes Red Shoes aims to commemorate the women of Juarez and at other times it is about denouncing general violence against women. The traveling of this piece has been possible thanks to associations, universities, artists, activists and independent groups. The original 2009 installation consisted of 33 pairs of donated red female shoes that were placed along Juarez Avenue, the main street connecting Mexico to the US. The second time was in 2012, in Sinaloa, where this time Chauvet collected 300 pairs of donated shoes. Many installations followed and are still taking place around the world - this work is a concept that can be reproduced anywhere.

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The actual logistics of this installation are not complicated; its complexity lies in the fact that it symbolizes a public catharsis of pain. Thanks to the red female shoes, the focus is on women and a message that needs to be shared out loud, comprising issues such as domestic, workplace or any other gender-related violence. Another unique trait is that it brings together people from inside and outside of the art world and its message resonates on so many levels.

The way this piece travels breaks down many barriers and opens an opportunity for debate, personal insight, and the creation of a solidarity network as well as freeing the work from art-related burdens such as conservators and insurance. It is a piece that is “performed” in an urban space for only one day and relies simply on the will of its citizen participants. Chauvet designed the project to travel internationally, using social networks to organize and promote it. The project has been replicated in Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Paraguay, United States, Norway, Canada, Spain, Italy, and the UK, and there are more to come.

The impact is so great that the artist is constantly being asked to replicate the piece and collaborate on new versions of it.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency