Stand in someone else’s shoes / In iemand anders’ schoenen staan

13.06.03 |

Exhibitons: 2003, CityMine(d), Brussels and Gallerie21.40c, Antwerp, Belgium
An excerpt from a journal kept during the time I lived in Belgium.

Today one guy (in a ask/answer session) asks me where his kussen are and I think he’s being a jerk asking for kussen. One means pillow/cushion and the other means kisses. Notice that they’re the same word! Now if that doesn’t get a room full of people from the far reaches of the world laughing, I don’t know what will.
September 23, 2002

I began attending Dutch classes in Hoboken soon after I arrived in Belgium as it’s the second-half of my partners’s other mother tongue and the language of both the city I lived in and those in our circle of friends. This experienced changed me. Not just the ongoing process of learning the language, but the classes themselves. Not only were all of us trying to make our way here in Belgium, but we are all on the same level. I was continually shocked, touched, overwhelmed, and challenged each and every class. When I used to tell my Belgian friends about my experiences, they were usually just as interested. I sometimes wished I could bring them with me me, just to see and meet the people in my classes , to give them a whole new view on the people behind the demographics of modern-day Antwerp/Flanders/Belgium.


This work is about new perspectives, providing an outlet for people to think for a few, brief moments what it’s like to be the owner of the shoes in relation to the other shoes, in relationship to Belgium, in relationship to migration, identity, location, the mobility of people, the cultures that we carry with us as well as distance and missing. Shoes are tangible objects, embedded with references to people and locations. They are the vantage point from which we experience the world, the removal of which, humbles and shows respect.

With the help of my teachers at CVO in Hoboken who were willing to introduce the concept to their classes, I asked students to lend me a pair of their shoes for the duration of the project. The people donating a pair of shoes were then asked to fill out a 5-question card in their new language, Dutch: 1) first name, 2) how old are you, 3) what country you are from, 4) what do you like about Belgium, and 5) what do you miss about your country?

En masse, this collection of shoes still speaks volumes. They are handwritten testaments of attempts at integration and gives a name to a population of people synonymous the world over with fear, disdain and necessity.

view a slideshow of the shoes and cards

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