Shoe Politics: Brinco

Shoe Politics: Brinco
Image Credit: Oakland Museum of California
Judi Werthein's much publicised project, Brinco, is now on display in the Tate's Blavatnik Building collection, where we saw it this weekend. Though the project was launched back in 2005, it is now more resonant - and more controversial - than ever.
Judi Werthein Brinco Tate Modern Blavatnik
Image Credit: Station Museum of Contemporary Art

The premise was simple: to design and create a pair of fashion trainers to be distributed on both sides of the Mexico/USA border. In Mexico, the shoes (which were produced in a limited batch) would be given out for free to those in need of a decent pair of shoes to make the crossing; in the USA, they would be sold for $200 as collectible items, with a portion of the money going to a Tijuana shelter for migrants in need. Alongside this contrast ran the concept that the shoes, manufactured in China, could cross multiple borders and enter the States without a problem, while the idea of people crossing into the US generated widespread outcry - ironically objectifying those trying to make the crossing.

Brinco Mexican Border Shoes Shoebox Judi Werthein
Image Credit: Judi Werthein

The main point of controversy however, lay in the design of the shoes themselves. Each pair comes equipped with a torch, a compass, a pocket in the sole to conceal money and medicine, and a map of the border crossing printed on the removable insole. While Werthein insisted on many television interviews she was called to that the project was an artistic experiment, this did not stop a torrent of hate mail and threats which were emailed to her, a selection of which was on display alongside the shoes. 

Brinco Label Support Condone Encourage Immigration Illegal

Brinco means 'jump' in Spanish. It is the word used to describe the crossing from Mexico to the USA.


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