My shoebox installation was titled “The Kaleidocity” and was inspired by a house mid-construction in my neighbourhood in the Port Union and Lawrence area. The house, which stands on the corner of the street, is distinctive as its appearance looks nothing like the others which are homes to many hardworking families.
Barely renovated, with graffiti on its walls, this house looks nothing like the others on the picture perfect street which hears the sound of construction every summer due to some homeowner’s renovation. It is quite easy to walk by this house and not pay any attention to it as it currently sits empty and discarded despite a car showing up in the driveway every week. However, when I engaged in the process of walking as a “flaneur” I realized there was something about the house that inspired me and required a deeper engagement. Despite the homes unkempt appearance, the manicured lawn as well as the flower bed looked as if it had been regularly cared for. As I stood there looking at the house, the front door particularly garnered my attention, it seemed as though was a portal and made me question what lay behind it. The door made me think of the social history which we don’t often think about when walking through suburban streets, which makes us question what we think about Toronto as a city both historically and presently.
House 407 is a dream house, one in which nature and urbanization live peacefully. After visiting the site on different occasions I began to question the possibilities of the future of the space as well as question its past. I could not help but think of Baudelaire when standing at the doorstep of house 407 looking at the barely held together windows contrasted by the grass that looked as though it had been freshly cut. For me the house became a representation of “the interplay between the city as bestial and the city as beautiful”. With the chaos that encapsulates the city as a result of urban capitalism, I have to ask myself who is the city built for.
The intentions of my shoebox installation were to change the perspective of my spectator by thrusting them into an imagined future in which the flaneur would be able to question the growing urban capital and who the city is built for. My spectator would be able to engage in a process of the decolonization of the mind, in which they are able to question the city’s past and its present by engaging in the discussion of the city which serves as a totalizing landmark of socio-economic political strategies. The house is allegorical of an imagined future, a fictional reality, a space, in which nature has taken over the ever growing urban capitalism inadvertently making us question its link to the past. House 407, reflects Benjamin’s words of a fragmented idea of the past fading into the present.
My shoe choice was a four-inch heel with an open toe. I felt the height of the heel best exemplified the stature of the looming house and the inviting open toe conveyed the secret world that lay hidden within the home. The appearance of the shoe was altered to not only convey my narrative but to also alter the structure of the house which was created by the colonizer. The heel was covered with aluminum foil and grass to reveal an imagined future in which nature has overtaken urban capitalism and to also convey how we walk by compartmentalized spaces such as house 407 in the city and refuse to look inside. The inside of my shoebox installation exemplifies what it feels like to stand at the door of House 407, as though we are looking into a well-known space and the spectator is able to read the city in a different way while existing in the present.
My narrative was largely centered around the architecture, which was to speak for the city and was exemplified through Lego blocks. The Lego blocks were also allegorical as they not only symbolized the created structure of the colonizer but each block symbolized a step towards the new beginning of my imagined future. The Lego blocks were covered with aluminum foil to symbolize capitalism and the ever growing urbanization which House 407 is surrounded by. The imagined future in which nature overtakes capitalism is conveyed through the green moss that covered the buildings and forces the spectator to walk away from the “shock and intoxication of modernity”. The audio that was accompanied in my shoe box installation was recorded on the street and was purely the sound of a hammer as well as the sounds of birds allowing the spectator to enter the loop at any moment and still be able to engage with the experience. The audio also helps convey the present chaos of urban capitalism taking over Toronto, however the sound of the birds in my audio present a foreshadowing in which nature has taken over and is in control.
The process of making the shoe and shoebox was one of the most intense and interesting ways of spatializing and making concrete the theory that we were exploring in the institute. Through the organization of the space and the modes of display I was able to make concrete the theory by adding affect and emotion to the space and place through my actions. I believe we can view art making as a performance of the theory or an act of making theory by understanding that it works in two stages. The first stage, occurs when gathering objects (in this instance from our sites) which become part of the process and contribute to our actions. By gathering the objects that speak to us or inspire us we are actively engaging in our theory. The second stage occurs when we are actively engaging in the process of art making and working within the construction of the installation within the confined space. The act of placing specific things leads acts and actions into language allowing us to engage in the theoretical practice and the performance of the theory. – Shazia Mughal