In 2013, conceptual artist Lenka Clayton created the “One Brown Shoe” project, in which she instructed participants to make a single brown shoe using materials found in their homes. The participants were 100 married couples that spanned 12 countries. They were asked to not discuss the project with their partners, and to construct their shoes in secret. Once each person completed their brown shoe, they could then share it with their spouse.
The type of shoes and materials used runs the gamut. Brown shoes were made from packing tape, knitting, animal crackers, corks, teddy bears, and much more. Materials were both conventional and innovative. One artist, for instance, made a stiletto heel from a nail. Another made use of a nest and quail egg. Some people used actual shoes, which seems like cheating (it isn’t). Despite living in the same household, no couple used the exact same supplies. Size of shoe was also noticeable; Some of them were meant for giants, while other babies.
In writing about the project, Clayton muses, “…each pair of shoes might be seen as a portrait – of two individuals, of one couple, and of the difference between the two.” It shows the artistic differences between the pair, as well as their individual ingenuity and knowledge of materials.
The fact that the shoe-making was in secret was the key to making this project successful. If they hadn’t, I don’t think these shoes would be as interesting. They might look forced, like they were trying (or not trying) to replicate their partner. One Brown Shoe allowed the participants to create freely without criticism. The eventual reveal of the two shoes, which are often very different from one another, is both amusing and telling. When left to their own devices, it’s fascinating to see how two people who share a life together would create something that is so alike or so different. (Via Junk Culture)