On View
Jan 30, 2009–May 31, 2009

The WOW exhibition highlighted London-based Dutch designer Marloes ten Bhömer (b. 1979 Duiven, The Netherlands). Ten Bhömer boldly challenges the existing typologies of women's shoes by experimenting with nontraditional technologies, construction techniques, and materials. Reinventing the manufacture of footwear, she offers new aesthetic and structural possibilities while critiquing the conventional status of women's shoes as cultural objects.

Sponsored in part by the Office of the Chancellor, U of I and Office of the Provost and Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, U of I. Image credit: Installation view, 2009 © Marloes ten Bhömer

The exhibition featured two installations of shoes ten Bhömer created by using rotational molding. After Hours presented the step-by-step procedure for making Rotationalmouldedshoe, from materials development and experimentation to pouring, molding, and de-molding processes, culminating in the finished pair of shoes. On view as well was a sampling of tests and rejects. Construct showed the step-by-step procedure for creating Beigefoldedshoe. A functional object becomes wearable sculpture, altering our understanding and challenging our assumptions about a ubiquitous accessory that fills so many closets.

We live in an environment that is hyper-conscious of design. Target stores bring major fashion labels to the masses, IKEA-brand furniture makes the designer dream kitchen a reality for anyone, cable television abounds with design how-to shows, and newsstands spill over with specialty design periodicals and DIY tracts. While this atmosphere is certainly exciting, the crowded marketplace makes the work of truly inspired and innovative designers even more difficult to recognize. As consumers and viewers, we are too rarely WOWed.

This series of exhibitions seeks out that WOW factor. Each featured designer creates remarkable products through a transparent design process inspired by everyday visual icons, and pushes the quintessential into uncharted territory. The first exhibition in the series highlights London-based Dutch designer Marloes ten Bhömer and her bold re-imagining of the shoe. In her work, a functional object becomes wearable sculpture, altering our understanding and challenging our assumptions about a ubiquitous accessory that fills so many closets.

This exhibition grants the viewer access to Marloes ten Bhömer's studio practice in an "after hours" format, as if she had left various projects at her workplace at the end of the day. The glimpse reveals her ideas and methods, the intense thought and customization that goes into every object. By featuring the process behind her rotationalmoldedshoe, specifically, visitors to the exhibition are able to follow the original inspiration through every step of development, to the finished product, including the necessary experimentation and inevitable missteps along the way. Ten Bhömer designed the exhibition as an installation and the exhibition furniture will travel with the show.

What most vividly sets apart her designs is her uncanny ability to merge the latest technologies with haute couture fabrication, resulting in objects that are entirely handmade without bearing a trace of conventional shoemaking elements. To illustrate this unique working method, a rotational molding machine, developed in collaboration with a mechanical engineer, is featured in the show. This pioneering method of shoemaking begins with a liquid rubber material that is slowly rotated within a mold until the resulting form emerges as a hollow shoe. This incorporation of technology in such an unexpected way stands in stark contrast to the purely handmade process behind the beigefoldedshoe. Photographs of each stage in the development of this design are on display. This transparent design process as exhibition is both a perfect tool for design students and a fascinating experience for everyone.

Exhibition Programming

January 27–5:30 pm
Artist Talk
"Walking Machines," a talk by Marloes ten Bhömer, part of the DesignMatters series


c2, a curatorial collaboration between Ginger Gregg Duggan and Judith Hoos Fox develops exhibitions of international, cross media contemporary art that explore current issues in culture and design. Together they have organized OVER + OVER: A Passion for Process, Branded and On Display; FACADES; and BLOWN AWAY. (Catalogs available upon request.)