Marloes ten Bhömer’s aim is to completely replace the standard and regimented approaches to footwear design and manufacturing with the working processes of engineering. This method, which purposefully shirks fashion trends and styles, is based on research into the structural parameters required to support a foot (in a high-heeled position) while in motion.
Displayed throughout the exhibition are artifacts from a series of structural, aesthetic and cultural experiments and outcomes, conducted and produced over the course of a year. The White Prototypes (2013) are test pieces, mapping out specific combinations of foot and ground contact points derived from anatomical and kinematic studies. Alongside them are a collection of sketches, construction rigs, slow-motion video footage, pressure-mat analyses, prototypes of various complexities, film compilations, prints and slides. Intuitive experiments and analytical studies, observations and inferences, triumphs and failures, are all presented here together.
As demonstrated in the projected video Material Compulsion (2013) the high-heeled woman is a complex construct, one designed for, and ultimately sanctioned to, the man-made environment. When placed in alternative settings (through the narrative of a film, for example) or when forced to walk through unique substrates, a woman in heels loses her equilibrium (both physically and culturally) and begins to slip, trip, sink or tumble, thereby transforming her perceived identity.
The consequences of ten Bhömer’s extensive research methodology, developed over the course of her Stanley Picker Fellowship at Kingston University, are two-fold: First, the approach reveals a link between rationalised parameters, aesthetic intuition and structural understanding. Second, by considering ‘the woman in motion’ as an engineering problem, she exposes and questions the role high heels play in the cultural construction of female identity.
Marloes ten Bhömer was appointed Stanley Picker Design Fellow in 2011 and is now Research Fellow at the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture, Kingston University. Her work is published and exhibited internationally, including the Krannert Art Museum Illinois, Modemuseum Hasselt, Galerie Lucy Mackintosh Switzerland, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, Design Museum Holon, Israel, Spring Projects Gallery and the Victoria & Albert Museum London.
A special thank you to: Ioannis Belimpasakis, James Brouner, Marc Bultitude, Kenny Evans, Laura Hodson, Phil Hollins, Graeme MacKay, Stephanie Jane Price, Emma Rummins, Nicola Swann, Jane and James at Sugru, Per Tingleff, Noam Toran, Nick Williamson and the Stanley Picker Gallery team.