2015 has been a wonderfully busy year for the Bata Shoe Museum. We’ve been celebrating our 20th anniversary with new exhibits in our galleries and new art installations in our atrium. On October 1st, we unveiled Empreintes, an installation by French artist Pascale Peyret, which consists of 180 carbonized shoe lasts suspended from the ceiling of our 4-story atrium.
2015 is not only a celebratory year for us, it also marks an important date for the Government of Ontario: it is the 400th anniversary of the French presence in our province. In order to celebrate these two milestone events, The BSM worked with the Consulate General of France in Toronto and the Office of Francophone Affairs to invite Pascale to create a dynamic art installation in our museum.
Pascale first visited the Bata Shoe Museum in December 2014 and spent several days going through our artifact collection. While examining the soles of our shoes, she became interested in the concept of footprints and what traces, both literal and metaphorical, human beings leave on the planet. Pascale began plans to create a large, spiral-shaped installation made of carbonized wooden shoe lasts that would hang in our atrium. These lasts were designed to represent our collective footprints, and the social and environmental impact of our lives.
Shortly after her visit, Pascale began collecting wooden shoe lasts, which are forms that shoemakers use to shape and create footwear. These lasts came from several different sources around the world, and Pascale worked with Martial Acquerone in the south of France to carbonize these lasts; a process which gave them a rich, dark, black sheen. She also designed a large metal frame, shaped like a carbon molecule, on which these lasts would hang. Suspended from each last is a transparent label which has written on it an important message about the environment. Working with Alliance Francais, the BSM collected over 200 labels on which Francophone youth reflected on their own carbon footprints, and wrote messages about how we can collectively change our habits to reduce our negative impact on the environment.
After several months of careful planning, the installation began in late September. The lasts themselves were very fragile so we had to be extremely careful during the hanging process to limit any damage. Fortunately, we had an amazing installation team, which included very skilled rope climbers from Rope Access Maintenance, and after a few late nights, we had the installation successfully up! Pascale was here on hand when we officially unveiled the installation as part of Nuit Blanche, and visitors were excited to learn about Empreintes from the artist herself.
Visitors to the Bata Shoe Museum can see Pascale’s work through January 31st, 2016.