artist / participant
How can one make a distinction between the ritual of taking shoes off in different cultures and the usual custom of taking shoes off before entering one
s own home? They seem to be one identical act, at least the result is the same: bare feet. For the artist Oliver Musovik the photographs and accompaying texts present an opportunity to introduce his own experiences and ideas originating from the problem of differentiating cultures according to the different meaning the ritual obtains due to different cultural structure. Placing this ritual “into focus” and emphasising it among all other existing rituals in the history of culture and repeating it in different contexts takes its meaning to absurdity: taking shoes off in front of a mosque by Muslims is compared to taking shoes off at a house party in Sweden, taking shoes off in Japan or in the home of the artist… There is a huge difference in the reasons that lead to establishing the rules and respect for the same, and thus compared they set up paradoxical even “politically incorrect” situations. However, the artist Oliver Musovic does not aspire to a scientifically correct “dissection” of the problem worthy of a cultural historian or an anthropologist. On the contrary, he is preoccupied with the personal experience of the one who took the shoes off. The uneasiness, the feeling of shame for the “bareness” comes mostly from our habit to have that part of the body covered, protected by shoes. Thus, the uneasiness comes from the need to protect our body, and not only phisically. To protect our privacy from the public. The exposure to the eyes of the Other is the reason that causes uneasiness; it initiates an inner division with the body and its appearance. The relation to ones own body is one of the boundaries between cultures and the basis for many misunderstandings and conflicts. The “exotic” travels of a Western anthropologist are accompanied by the shock from the appearance of the Other and it is mostly due to the first encounter with the uncovered body. The project, however, refers to the cases when we ourselves are compelled to face the uncovering of the truth of our own body.
The authenticity of the three different experiences revealed in the project taking shoes off is presented only through verbal description of the event. The photographs, although taken by the artist who is not a professional photographer, or rather because of that, carry a different “aura” from that of documenting an event. These are not authentic photographs taken on the spot of the events described in the texts. These are staged photographs, double metaphors of absance: absence of the actual protagonists and events, and absence in general, in the sense of Barthes` “having been there” of the staged scenes. Thus, the danger of pleonastic repetition of word and picture has been avoided.
The people are not present with their faces: the strongest mark of a personality. More important are the “empty” shoes and the bare feet. In both cases, either the shoes or the feet are a synecdoche for the human and the whole body which is now a place transmitting information regarding a habit or a ritual that has been established long ago.
Oliver Musovik - Clothing