31 October 2009

Ladies of the Night, What a Fright!



It's a Halloween treat! Enjoy this early '80s footage from New Wave Theatre of Hollywood all-girl punk band Castration Squad, featuring (among others) Shannon Wilhelm and Mary Bat-Thing, who later became Dinah Cancer, lead singer of 45 Grave. (One of my style icons, Alice Bag reminisces about Castration Squad here.)

29 October 2009

PICTURING POLITICS: On "Pride In His Work"

This past Monday, in what brings nothing less than Driving Miss Daisy most prominently to mind, the Sartorialist posted a photograph from his book tour, featuring his (unnamed) driver in San Francisco. In his commentary, the Sartorialist remarks: "As you can see he was very elegant and practically oozed self-confidence, dignity and pride in his work. I love people who show pride in their work, regardless of the job."

Seemingly unaware that service workers labor under constant public scrutiny, he continues: "This man's car was spotless, his shoes were shined and he knew exactly where he was going. He wasn't dressed like that for me, he had no idea who I was, this was just another day and just another ride done in his own stylish way."

My first reaction was, What the fuck.

I've written about this before with regard to the Sartorialist's photograph of a presumably (but not assuredly) homeless black man and the commentary in which he imputes a quality of dignity to the man on the evidence of his well-matched accessories. This quality reappears here in the suit and smile, now matched with "pride in his work." Those structures of privilege or social realities that might mediate the encounter are nowhere accounted for. Instead, we are presented with what appears to be the snapshot of an individual who has risen above those unnamed social structures (only apparent in the condescension of "regardless of the job") to attain self-confidence and dignity, but who (in this story the Sartorialist tells) does not challenge those structures at all.

I want to quote again the brilliant Lauren Berlant on the icky sentimentalism of such regard:

The humanization strategies of sentimentality always traffic in cliché, the reproduction of a person as a thing, and thus indulge in the confirmation of the marginal subject’s embodiment of inhumanity on the way to providing the privileged with heroic occasions of recognition, rescue, and inclusion.
As before, the Sartorialist's rhetoric is the affective symptom of this world-view that first expresses amazement at the other's dignity ("he wasn't dressed like that for me"/"he is communicating his sense of pride and self-worth") and second expresses self-satisfaction at his own willingness to recognize that dignity -- without ever confronting the conditions or ideologies that enable such assumptions as its absence in the first place.

The comments perform this same economy of affirmation and forgetting -- this is the conditional affirmation of the other's dignity in so far as he appears to be "like us," and this is the selective forgetting of the histories of labor and race that continue to exclude the other from the measure of humanity. Especially here, because conceptions of labor are always interpolated with considerations of race, gender, sexuality, and nation, the figure of the black driver signifies in all these at once.

That is, in the following comments we see certain conceptions of contracted and service labor as they intersect with forms of racism and racialization (about black masculinity through prisms of racialized threat and its "domestication" in particular), material privileges and class comfort (consider the remarks about "trust" and "politeness"), and rules of gender stylization:


I immediately thought of Marshall (Ossie Davis) the limo driver in Joe vs the Volcano. Very nice.

He looks clean, and he looks proud of his job!

Pure style indeed. Could you post his contact information? I am in the Bay Area every few months and would like to book him.

VERY well put. everyone should take such pride in their jobs, regardless of the profession.

What a nice-looking man! You're right; taking care in one's appearance definitely inspires confidence. I'd definitely trust him to drive me anywhere.

Echoed repeatedly is the notion that "pride in one's work" is an important but increasingly rare quality. (This leads many commentators to wax nostalgic for an idealized image of the past, which carries its own historical racial connotations.) But what sort of attitude is this about those forms of labor that are comprised of economic vulnerability and racial exploitation? To emphasize, indeed to belabor, "pride in his work" as such is thus merely to raise a rather conventional attitude about the other's compliance with capitalism's often violent inequities.

That is, when does "pride in his work" slide seamlessly into "knows his place"? Such comments as "I would like to book him," "He looks proud of his job," express pleasure at what is presented as the scene of a black man proud to be at the service of others.

Thus the violence of historical servitude disappears, and it occurs to only a very few in his audience (of the commentators) that perhaps this performance is less pride and more prudence. In an uncertain economy, an individual employed in the service sector --especially as a driver or some other position requiring also affective labor (e.g., smiling, nodding, chuckling at terrible jokes)-- must perform satisfaction with their position in order to ensure their continued employment.

Showing this post to my students, many of them understood this immediately: that doing service work is a careful negotiation of bodily and sartorial performativity informed by race, gender, sexuality, and nation, under unequal conditions of labor and capital.

Meanwhile, I want to believe that this comment is the work of a minion at The Onion, because the final bit about his teeth seems so ludicrous it must be satire lampooning the racism of above-mentioned observations about the driver's cleanliness
: "Well put, Sart! Regardless of one's job, even if it's just to drive people around, one should always look nice, as this gentleman certainly does. We can't see his shoes, so we'll have to take your word that they are shined, but we can see his teeth, and they are well brushed indeed, further proof of his self-esteem."

A few comments do protest ("The fact that he is a driver doesn't mean he has a personal sound track which consists of 'It's a Hard-Knock Life'......"), and Stephanie writes at length:

You write all of this as though the fact that someone with a lower-class service job actually cares about themselves and has self-confidence and "dignity" is remarkable. He might not have been dressed like this specifically for you, but who knows why he dresses like this...could very well have something to do with wanting to get ahead in a service industry. As a friend of mine said,

"Additionally, the post, especially in remarks to politeness and "self-worth" makes me think of Richard Wright's novels, and specifically of Bigger Thomas in "Native Son," or of generations of black porters who learned to smile at every white person, or of cooks, drivers, and other employment groups of subservient Negroes that have faded into cultural memory."

Not that there is anything wrong with that on his part, just that I feel like you are romanticizing/aestheticizing away a lot of the more gruesome aspects of class, labor, and race in America. Which is potentially dangerous, and not in a good way. (Or, at least not in a good way for those of us who care about changing those conditions for the better.)
While allowing other comments --notably, the more obviously fucked-up ones expressing surprise and pleasure at the driver's cleanliness-- go unremarked, the Sartorialist did respond to Stephanie with a few disproportionate sentiments, including: "The problem is not me ....it's you! you try to scare people with your hyper-political correctness so everyone is scared to say anything.... Next time read what i wrote and not what you think you can twist around to fit your daily pc rant." (Oh, cliche*!) After Stephanie gently pointed out that she was just one comment among many --most of which are uniformly fawning-- and had no actual power to censor anyone on his blog, the Sartorialist apologized, sort of ("we were too harsh on each other").



* From this post: "Underlying every complaint of 'PC' is the absurd notion that members of dominant mainstream society have been victimized by an arbitrarily hypersensitive prohibition against linguistic and cultural constructions that are considered historical manifestations of bigotry." And furthermore, from Racialicious: "Berg explains that in its original context, PC was a pejorative term used by people who felt they were losing something. Exactly what they were losing is very hard to describe, especially to them. But many sociologists and historians today have come to a consensus on what they call it: it’s a loss of privilege—and in terms of race, a loss of white privilege."

22 October 2009

PICTURING POLITICS: T-Shirt Imperatives


There is just so much wrong with American Apparel issuing a t-shirt imperative to "Free Iran." I am powerfully reminded of Michel Foucault's thesis that the discourse of freedom is constantly produced through the practice of security, and of Inderpal Grewal's remark that humanitarianism is the name of American empire's condition of possibility. (Thanks, Golnar, for the creepy image.)

20 October 2009

LINKAGE: The Sunday Best and Liminally Minded


Look at this lovely badge declaring our newfound pride! For other fabulous blogs that made Thom Wong's list of Best Style Writing, see his own wonderful style blog The Sunday Best.

Also, we only just discovered that fellow traveler Hua Hsu, possibly the coolest academic and Atlantic Monthy correspondent, has been reading us on the politics of style (with this generous mention) even as we've been reading him on the promise of culture and music.

19 October 2009

PODCAST: Addicted to Race

If you missed hearing Minh-Ha co-hosting Racialicious.com's weekly podcast called "Addicted to Race" with Tami Winfrey Harris (of Love Isn't Enough) and Lisa Wade (of Sociological Images) last Sunday afternoon, click here to listen.

FYI: The discussion on the French Vogue blackfacing fiasco we posted on begins at around 39:30 on the time counter. Also, there were a few moments of technical difficulty so expect some dead air.

PUBLICATION: Monica Miller on Slaves To Fashion

Duke University Press's new release, Monica Miller's Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity, promises to appear on all my future syllabi, no matter the course. Read Miller's illuminating essay about the book's core concepts and their development at Rorotoko, an online venue for engaging authors and ideas in intellectual nonfiction. Below is a long excerpt to whet your appetite:

Slaves to Fashion began with a footnote I encountered in graduate school. While auditing a class on W.E.B Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk, I came across a troubling reference to the fact that the revered Du Bois had been caricatured as a black dandy. In the class, we spent even weeks in detailed analysis of Du Bois’s skill as a rhetorician and lyricist. In order to appreciate the truly interdisciplinary nature of his talents, we took very seriously his training as a philosopher, historian and sociologist. The image of Du Bois that emerged was that of an erudite, punctilious, quintessential “race man.” None of this prepared me for the footnote and accompanying illustration from a political cartoon of Du Bois as a degraded buffoon, overly dressed and poorly comported, whose erudition had been turned into what the cartoon called “ebucation.”

Only when I began to research the history of dandyism and, in particular, the racialization of the dandy figure, did I realize the complex strategy and history behind that caricature. Dandyism has been used by Africans and blacks to project images of themselves as dignified and distinguished, it has also been used by the majority culture (and blacks) to denigrate and ridicule black aspirations. Slaves to Fashion examines the interrelatedness of these impulses and what the deployment of one strategy or the other says about the state of black people and culture at different moments in history.

Although dandyism is often considered a mode of extremely frivolous behavior attentive only to surfaces or facades and a practice of the white, European elite and effete, I argue that it is a creative and subtle mode of critique, regardless of who is deploying it. Though often considered fools, hopelessly caught up in the world of fashion, dandies actually appear in periods of social, political and cultural transition, telling us much about cultural politics through their attitude and appearance. Particularly during times when social mores shift, style and charisma allow these primarily male figures to distinguish themselves when previously established privileges of birth and wealth, or ways of measuring social standing might be absent or uncertain. Style—both sartorial and behavioral— affords dandies the ability and power to set new fashions, to create or imagine worlds more suited to their often avant-garde tastes. Dandyism is thus not just a practice of dress, but also a visible form of investigating and questioning cultural realities.

...

Anyone can be in vogue without apparent strategy, but dandies commit to a study of the fashions that define them and an examination of the trends around—which they can continually re-define themselves. Therefore, when racialized, the dandy’s affectations (fancy dress, arch attitude, fey and fierce gesture) signify well beyond obsessive self-fashioning—rather, the figure embodies the importance of the struggle to control representation and self- and cultural-expression.

Manipulations of dress and dandyism have been particularly important modes of self-expression and social commentary for Africans before contact with Europeans and especially afterwards. In fact, in order to endure the attempted erasure or reordering of black identity in the slave trade and its aftermath, those Africans arriving in England, America, or the West Indies had to fashion new identities, to make the most out of the little that they were given. Whether luxury slaves or field hands, their new lives nearly always began with the issuance of new clothes.

Enslaved people, however, frequently modified these garments in order to indicate their own ideas about the relationship between slavery, servitude, and subjectivity. For example, there are documented cases of slaves saving single buttons and ribbons to add to their standard issue coarse clothing, examples of slaves stealing or “borrowing” clothing, especially garments made from fine fabrics, from their masters for special occasions. Slaves created underground second-hand clothing markets in major cities to augment their wardrobes and to exchange clothing that identified them when they wanted to escape. In fact, many slaves “dressed up” or “cross-dressed” literally when they absconded, wearing clothing beyond their station or of the other gender in efforts to appear free and be mobile. The black dandy’s style thus communicates simultaneously self-worth, cultural regard, a knowingness about how blackness is represented and seen. Black dandyism has been an important part of and visualization of the negotiation between slavery and freedom.

Things I've Learned From Students #34: Nontsikelelo Veleko

One of my former students, Janel B., sent me to this post called "Don't Sleep on Africa" on the fashionable Livejournal community called black cigarette, and thereby introducing me to, among others, South African photographer Nontsikelelo Veleko and her amazing portraits of Johannesburg stylish street denizens.

The entire post at black cigarette begins with this brief intervention into the problematically differential distribution of "style:"

Stockholm. Paris. London. New York. Helsinki. Milan. Tokyo.

These seem to be to go-to places when it comes to
"street-style" and what's hot in general on most fashion blogs, but I just wanted to share some of the street-style you'll find on the African continent.... South African street style is rarely sleek and chic - it's irreverent, vibrant and daring. It mixes patterns and textures, with echoes of mid 70s style (and just a splash of "geek chic").

(Consider too the fact that Feedshion, which collects "the best street fashion photos from all the greatest street style blogs for your viewing pleasure," happens to feature only street style blogs from the usual suspects and none from South America or Africa. Of course, street style blogs are never accurate snapshots of this construct called "the street" anyway, but that's another post.)

The photo-heavy post, featuring also African designers, is a wonderful contrast to those editorials in American and European fashion magazines whose visual vocabularies for "Africa" are unbelievably narrow and alienating (Galliano, I'm looking at you and your "tribal" fetish figure shoes). The continued refusal to see the African other as coeval (that is, contemporaneous) with the so-called modern observer, most obviously manifested in the designation "tribal chic," betrays the still-haunting presence of colonial aesthetics in Western art and design.

In the photographs found at "Don't Sleep On Africa," we see a much more nuanced postcolonial aesthetics reflecting multiple modernities as well as unalterable histories: these include the multiple imperial enterprises of the "scramble for Africa," but also the circuits of what Paul Gilroy called the "black Atlantic," through which we might look again at these photographs, their performativity and politics of consumption. In doing so, we might find in some of these images a subtle critique of the West's cultural realities, through which those familiar fashionable markers of "tribal chic" (zebra stripes, for instance), when they do appear, are rendered insistently, assuredly modern.

Edited to add additional links supplied by Sociological Images and Racialicious, by way of the LJ community Debunking White.

17 October 2009

LINKAGE: IFB Network and Links a la Mode


Ethics and Morality in Fashion City


Edited by Ashe Mischief

This week’s Links á la Mode covers the gambit in regards to the ethical and moral questions surrounding fashion right now…. we have Confessions of a Fashion Editor’s take on fashion blogging & paid posts, and Oranges and Apples reports on a German magazine’s ban of professional models. threadbared talks about Lara Stone, French Vogue, and the controversial use of blackface in recent issue, while Hong Kong Fashion Geek revisits the argument about fashion, price discrimination, and designer knock-offs as Alexander McQueen sues Steve Madden.

As usual, there was a spectacular round-up of links in the forum as well, all worthy of checking out!

Links à la Mode : October 15th


Confessions of a Fashion Editor – Morality, the law, and fashion blogging
Denimaniac: – Best Denim Shops | Q&A with LA’s Mister Freedom
dramatis personae – Costumes from Holidays Past…
ferOHHHsh: – Champagne from a shoe?? J’Taime Le Rituel!
From Betsy With Love – Bringing some Lynchian Style to the Web!
Grit and Glamour – Manscaping 101: Guys should groom, not preen. A little chest hair never hurt (but a shaved chest does).
Hong Kong Fashion Geek – What’s the harm in Steve Madden doing an Alexander McQueen knockoff? Is it really sue-worthy?
idiosyncratic style: – Idiosyncratic Style: Dare to put your legs center stage this season.
Independent Fashion Bloggers – Poll : How do you feel about Sponsored Posts?
Large Black Diary: – Austie has a beautiful collection of hair accessories
Oranges and Apples: – German magazines bans professional models – an in-depth disussion
Prom Mafia – Betsey Johnson does DC.
Rags to Reverie: – Five tips for shopping at an American Apparel Flea Market
Retro Chick – Lusious Lingerie: Vintage Style from Fred & Ginger
sweetarchivia: – Review of Man Shops Globe event held at the San Francisco Anthropologie store
The Art of Accessories: – The Art of Accessories shows you how to accessorize your winter wardrobe with tights.
THE COVETED – SPUN Around: Integrating organic basics in your wardrobe.
The Curvy Fashionista – The Business of Plus Size Fashion: Blogger turned boutique owner Marie Denee discusses the growth of plus size fashion.
The Working Wardrobe – Virtual Dress Code: How Professionalism is Working its Way into the Avatar Wardrobe
the3st: – The First EVER Philadelphia Fashion Week is this week. Interview with the directors of the week.
threadbared: – We react to the recent Lara Stone editorial in French Vogue in “Blackface, and the Violence of Revulsion.”
|mode.ulation|: – Mode-ulation is back from hiatus..we bring you a quick glance through Paris fashion week with the cutest trend – the updated toga.

12 October 2009

Blackface, and the Violence of Revulsion

This post is supposed to be about the latest occurrences of blackface in fashion -- specifically, the 14-page editorial featuring Lara Stone, a white Dutch model, painted black and shot by Steven Klein for the October 2009 issue of French Vogue and also Carlos Diez's show at Madrid Fashion Week (September 22, 2009) in which models walked in blackface and, at times, with bared breasts.

There is indeed quite a lot to say about both events. To begin, fashion's seeming ineptness for dealing with race in ways that do not accommodate and/or supplement the already too long histories of racial objectification and commodification. We've discussed much of this history on Threadbared (see especially here, here, here, here, and here) already and will no doubt continue to, as there seems to be an inexhaustible amount of material. Second, these events (and others like it) are revealing of the ways in which multiculturalism and multiracialism --under the guise of postracialism, postmodernism, or just artistic edginess-- enables the continuation of white supremacy. For example, some are defending French Vogue for its provocativeness ("creative images . . . can sometimes [be] off-putting") and for its postracialism (arguing that it is "sort of beautiful in that having a person of one ethnic background look convincingly like she might be of another race shows the interconnectedness of us all"). But what is on display in French Vogue and on Diez's runway is not beautiful black bodies, but what Nirmal Puwar describes as "the universal empty point" that white female bodies are able to occupy precisely because their bodies are racially unmarked: "[Thus] they can play with the assigned particularity of ethnicized dress without suffering the 'violence of revulsion.'"

The "violence of revulsion" that women of color generally, and black women particularly in the cases of this issue of French Vogue and Diez's show, experience is not mediated by these "edgy" acts of "postracialism". In fact, the violence of revulsion is redoubled here. Blackface highlights the privileged universal empty point that white bodies continue to occupy even in this so-called postracial moment, and in so doing, it positions racial difference against whiteness, as the other to whiteness. Moreover, blackface and other performances of racial commodification produce a different kind of "violence of revulsion" -- an everyday violence of revulsion like I experienced when I discovered Klein's editorial and Diez's fashion show.

By this second order of "violence of revulsion," I mean the assault of racism and the assault of colonialism's traces on what was for me, until that moment of violence, a relatively mundane workday at home. Violently interrupting this scene of banality is not simply these images of racial arrogance, but my own visceral response of anger, exasperation, disappointment, and a feeling I can only describe as racism fatigue. Such images and their inevitable postmodern, postracial, freedom-of-artistic-expression discourses and apologists are not only tired, today they are tiring.

08 October 2009

Life-Saving Fashion

Yesterday, we posted on Alyce Santoro's repurposed audio cassette tape ties which are constituted at the intersection of the sartorial and the sonic (as well as the visual and the aural). Today, we learned (from the FIT Facebook feed!) about Dr. Elena Bodnar's sartorial-scientific invention, the bra/gas mask, and a bulletproof hair weave.

From the New Zealand Herald: "Bodnar, a Ukraine native who now lives in Chicago, started her medical career studying the effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster." According to Bodnar, "If people had had cheap, readily available gas masks in the first hours after the disaster, they may have avoided breathing in Iodine-131, which causes radiation sickness . . . [Moreover,] the bra-turned-gas masks could have also been useful during the September 11 terrorist attacks, and for women caught outside during the dust storms that recently enveloped Sydney."

For these life-saving bras, Bodnar earned an Ig Nobel prize from the scientific humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research.

The bulletproof hair weave is an older story but nonetheless relevant to this admittedly silly post. Last February, Briana Bonds of Kansas City, Missouri survived what would have been a fatal gun shot wound from her jilted boyfriend because her hair weave stopped the bullet. See the video below.


video

07 October 2009

ART: Sonic Fabric Ties


Fashion and music share a long and complex history. The conceptual artist Alyce Santoro is intertwining these histories in intriguingly material ways by repurposing audiocassette tapes into mixed media eco-fashionable ties (from $90 - $140). Most fabulous is the synaesthetic component of the sonic fabric. From a description on Ecouterre's website: the ties are "'playable' when you run a tape head across the surface." Fashion you can both see and hear!

05 October 2009

The Issue on Black Models


While the much-ballyhooed Italian Vogue's "All Black" issue last July 2008 was an overwhelming disappointment, it apparently succeeded in awakening the fashion industry to the fact that industries of beauty culture produce, circulate, and secure very limited ideas of beauty especially in relation to race and size. Unfortunately, a lot of the response from American Vogue has been of the "some of my best friends are black" variety. Consider, for example, the editorial Vogue ran called, "Is Fashion Racist?" Recounting the hard luck stories of three young (and working) black models, Chanel Iman, Jourdan Dunn, and Arlenis Sosa, the article seems to conclude that the answer to racism is for models to keep a "strenuously positive" attitude. Iman offers this advice: "Nobody likes to work with someone negative." And further, that the real problem in the fashion industry is not racism but the supermodel's fall from power.

The latest issue of Teen Vogue, however, presents a much more honest portrayal of the politics of race and beauty in fashion. And again, Iman and Dunn are featured. Rather than glossing over the institutional structures of fashion's racism, they rightly point out that the lack of opportunities for black models reproduces racial alienation. On this issue, a journalist at Jezebel is also astute when she asserts that "black" can be a homogenizing category of identity that misrecognizes the ethnic and racial diversity of non-white models. "Selina Khan is from the French-speaking Caribbean island of Martinique and swears she's not black, but 'Indian, mixed with Arabic and Creole, and Vietnamese.'"

Actually what Khan really says is: "My mom's Indian, mixed with Arabic and Creole, and my dad is Vietnamese. Yep, Indian and Chinese." When the interviewer asks Khan to clarify--"I thought you said Vietnamese"--Khan explains knowingly, "It's ethnically the same thing. Just a different country."

Now, if only we could get Khan to stop misrecognizing all Asians as being the same.

PUBLICATION: The Woman in the Zoot Suit

La Bloga, a collective blog on Chicana/o and Latina/o arts and culture, has a fascinating interview with Catherine Ramirez, an associate professor of American Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and author of The Woman in the Zoot Suit: Gender, Nationalism, and the Cultural Politics of Memory (just out this year on Duke University Press).

I was especially gratified to find this interview as I was teaching one of Ramirez's earlier essays, "Crimes of Fashion: The Pachuca and Chicana Style Politics," in my fashion course under the rubric of "subcultures and style police," alongside Kobena Mercer, Angela Davis (on her "afro image"), and a handful of news clippings and current editorials about the creeping spread of "baggy pants" ordinances -- that form of sartorial profiling that is also racial profiling, operationalizing (as Foucault put it in Abnormal) the categorization of individuals who "resemble their crime before they commit it."

Writing for La Bloga, Olga Garcia Echeverria prefaces the must-read interview with this lovely series of ruminations :

When I wasn't highlighting passages in Catherine Ramirez' book, I found myself staring at the cover. The featured picture, printed in the Los Angeles Times in 1942, is both intriguing and haunting. It captures three young Chicana women being taken into police custody for allegedly being members of a pachuca gang, the Black Widows. One woman is gazing directly into the camera. I can't look at her without wondering who she is and what she's thinking. In fact, she inspires a litany of questions...

Who are these young women in baggy pants and huaraches entering a police car? What are their stories? Why have they and other women like them of the World War II era been so largely ignored by scholars and historians? And how is it that el pachuco (once demonized as a social menace, effeminate dresser and clueless pocho) got re-envisioned into history as an icon of masculinity, resistance, and cultural pride, whereas his female counterpart, la pachuca, dwindled into erasure?

01 October 2009

ART: Highway to Heel

Earlier this year, the Van Every/Smith Galleries at Davidson College presented the first exhibition to address the intersection between disability identity and female identity in RE/FORMATIONS: Disability, Women, and Sculpture. The following is an excerpt from the exhibition essay, "Leaving Venus Behind," by Davidson College English professor and co-curator Ann M. Fox.

One corner of [Harriet Sanderson's] Molt, with Scurs is made up of multiple pairs of high-heeled shoes, lined up against a wall, their heels fashioned from the tips of canes. There’s both kinship and whimsy in this installation. Sanderson’s use of a curved cane tip for the heel of a woman’s dress shoe makes the point that such dress footwear can limit the mobility of even the most ambulatory user in the name of beauty, rendering them fully stopped, as if against a wall. And the high-heeled shoe is, of course, unstable and impractical for the body with limited mobility. But the installation also creates the hybridized cane/shoe as an object of whimsy and playfulness, reminding us that canes and shoes are, after all, paired to create mobility in their actual lives as objects. The normal heels of the shoes have been amputated from the bodies of the footwear and lay scattered about the gallery with other cane tips that seem to have exploded free from the “cane chair.” As the viewer looks at the new shoe/cane creations, there’s something sexy and dangerous about the sinuous hooks of the highest heels, a rendering of disability as vehicle for haute couture. Ultimately, these shoes are not a simplistic reinforcement of ableist metaphors to critique beauty norms; they become a kind of expression of alternate movement and “disability cool.”