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Old thoughts in a pop-up shoe box

06 Nov 2019

Old thoughts in a pop-up shoe box Image

By Rhonda Dredge

Arts Centre Melbourne has come up with an innovative way of winning people over to pathos.

They’ve got 35 pairs of shoes that you can try on to get closer to their previous owners.

The shoes are not that fashionable. In fact, they have a distinct retro feel.

You could call them “empathy shoes” for they once belonged to donors who have been willing to share their stories and record them on audio devices.

The pop-up shoebox opened in October in front of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and people were queuing by lunch time.

One donor was an Englishman by the name of Jonathon Buckley who takes a size 14. You couldn’t help feel for him with such big feet. They were the second largest shoes in the collection.

Most of the other empathy workers went for a size that fit their feet but Southbank Local News couldn’t resist something bigger.

The man inside the shoe box was very accommodating. You are are free to choose whichever pair you like and take a 10-minute walk around the city in them.

At first the sound of Jonathon’s voice on an audio device was quite charming. He described the way he likes to skinny dip in a pool, even in the middle of winter.

He said that a plunge in cold water stopped you thinking too much.

It was a great relief to listen to someone talk about their feelings instead of giving you a pitch or branding news for their product.

The idea of the project comes from London artist Clare Patey who wants to tackle global prejudice.

You take a risk when you select a pair because you don’t know in advance what you’ll have to endure.

Jonathon’s account gradually became more serious. He was 59 when he made the recording and he lived in an apartment with a sunny view over the pool.

Sometimes, however, he thought about throwing himself off the balcony.

He’d been thinking about death of late so when a neighbour died near the pool, Jonathon wasn’t that fazed.

People’s lives are made up of thoughts like these but they don’t usually get an airing.

The stories include 12 from the Empathy Museum in London and 23 newly-commissioned stories by Victorians.

A Mile in My Shoes, Arts Centre Melbourne, until November 17.

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