In Her Shoes | In Her Head
Curated by Lydia Matthews and Ani Riaboshenko as part of Project One Stop for Art Caucasus 2007 - International Arts Forum

Georgian Ambassador to The Aphrodite Project: Nikusha Chkhaidze
Translation, Video: Magda Guruli
Photographs: Iliko Zautashvili

download the Georgian/English leaflet

For Project One Stop at Art Caucasus 2007 in Tbilisi, Georgia, Norene Leddy created In Her Shoes | In Her Head: a performance, workshop, and urban intervention. As in all her Aphrodite Project works, Leddy collaborated with local communities to address their specific needs, wants, and desires. In her discussions with Georgian NGOs, researchers, and social workers before and during her stay in Tbilisi, it became clear that the fear of being ‘outed’ or exposed by the media was of primary concern for everyone involved. Local community members requested a ‘private’ public discussion in a safe space sensitive to the needs of a vulnerable population. To address this, Leddy split In Her Shoes | In Her Head into two parts: one private session for NGO workers, their clients, and allies; and one for the general public.

The private performance was held at Inclusive Foundation, an NGO that works with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population in Tbilisi. Tanadgoma, an NGO that works primarily with sex workers, was also invited to participate. Using Leddy’s Platforms artwork as a starting point, the audience engaged in a frank and open exchange about sex work, sex workers, the role of contemporary artists in society, the significant differences between sex work in the US and Georgia, police protection and personal safety. The audience tried on Leddy’s Platforms shoes, playfully modeling them for each other, as well as participating in a workshop in which they built personal audible alarm systems to use when physically threatened. The same alarm is embedded in the Platforms shoes, and can also be used in handbags, jackets and other clothing. This DIY alarm system uses inexpensive components and is easy to assemble (no soldering or special skills required).

The second part of the project was an open public intervention in an underpass on Rustaveli Avenue, below Kashveti Church. An empty glass storefront was transformed into a modified shoe store that combined the image of commerce with the reality of political action. The Platforms shoes and The Aphrodite Project logo were displayed prominently and the “shop” was open during regular business hours. Leaflets and stickers explaining the project in Georgian and English were handed out, and passersby were invited in to try on the shoes. Four pairs of the sandals with working video screens and audible alarm systems were available, including a men's size 10 for the transsexual population. During this interaction, Leddy explained the functionality and concepts behind the shoes, and “customers” were invited to exchange their views on sex work.

Prostitution's quasi-legal status in Georgia has frustrated women's rights groups who want it abolished, sex workers' rights groups who seek regulation and protection, and the general public whose views are often ambivalent. In Her Shoes | In Her Head offered an opportunity for public debate and expression outside of the typical political arena. For additional images, please see the Platforms flickr site.