Carmine-colored shoes: intervening in public spaces against gender violence

6 October 2023 - no responses

Author: Cecilia Itzel Noriega Vega

Red Shoes is an artwork made by the Mexican artist Elina Chauvet. The first installation was created in Ciudad Juárez in 2009 and consisted of placing 33 pairs of red-painted shoes on Avenida Juárez in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, a place where many disappearances and murders of women have been reported. The shoes were placed in the street to commemorate a march of women who have been murdered; in this way, the shoes make their absence present and make the bodies of the women who have not returned, as they were victims of feminicide, visible. Additionally, Red Shoes have multiple symbolic meanings, since they are associated with femininity, but, at the same time, the colour red reminds us of the blood and violence that the women suffered. The artist says that the piece arose from a personal story since her sister was a victim of femicide:  

“I changed cities; in this new city, I did not have a job as an architect, so I decided to dedicate myself to art, which was something I had always wanted to do, I stopped architecture completely, I started painting and my sister died. For me, art was a way to express my emotions” (Noriega, February 5, 2022)

, Elina Chauvet Red shoes Ciudad Juárez, extracted from

The emergence of this artwork coincides with the murders of women in Ciudad Juárez since 1993. The increase in these murders in this border area of ​​Mexico has been created by a system of exploitation and violation of working women. Additionally, the region is characterized by drug trafficking, which could also be a factor in the violence against women. These various elements, that include geographical, economic, and political issues, have caused the violence against women. 

Red Shoes began in Ciudad Juárez: however, due to the participatory and processual nature of the piece, it has been replicated in other spaces both nationally and internationally; some examples are the installations in the Texas-Mexico Pass and Chihuahua , and in Turin,, Leece  and Bergamo in Italy in 2013.

Elina Chauvet Red Shoes Bergamo Italy, April 2023 Francesca Guiserolli Record, extracted from

The installation was also replicated in Oaxaca, Gothenburg, Sweden, and Malgrad de Mar, Spain, as well as in Rome, Italy in 2016. It was exhibited in France and at the De Paul University in Chicago in 2018. Also, in this year, the artwork was shown in the Olmeca University in Villahermosa Tabasco and in Chile.

Elina Chauvet Red Shoes Chile, 2018, extracted from

The work has also been exhibited several times in Mexico City; for example, it was shown on March 7, 2019, at the Exterior Portico of the Memory and Tolerance Museum and on November 1, 2020, at the Historic Center in Mexico City.  These are just some examples of the multiple exhibitions it has had. 

Its appearance in various contexts makes it evident that gender violence is a global problem, but, at the same time, it also refers to a local situation; each intervention is different, with its own characteristics and particularities. Hence, the artwork develops in a conflict between the local and the global, which allows us to see the dimensions of gender violence, but also its particularities and individual elements. 

Due to the large number of reactivations that the installation has had, the artist has established specific guidelines and processes to replicate the work of art. In the first exhibitions, the artist convened and directed the creation of the installation. Subsequently, it was the groups and institutions that contacted the artist to carry out the installation that did this; she directed the processes and shared the precise guidelines for the creation of the work, which included publicising the event, initiating the one-to-two months prior to the installation to collect shoes and make a calendar to paint the shoes in public or private spaces. Likewise, during the installation, the shoes had to be placed simulating a body distance, since they represented physically absent people. Furthermore, shoes should not be placed in rows, circles or form figures. Most of the time, this procedure is carried out; however, the work could be adapted to various circumstances; in some reactivations, people have been called to bring the already painted shoes directly to the installation. 

Body and public space

Something very important about the artwork Red Shoes is its appearance in various public spaces. For the feminist movement, the act of putting the body in the public arena has been very important. Hannah Arendt explains the division between the public and the private and comments that, in the public space, what is seen happens and, in the private space, what is hidden is of significance (Arendt, 2005). Likewise, there is a symbolic division, where women are found in the domestic and home space, while men are the ones who go out into the public, to the place of visibility and decision-making. Of course, these divisions are symbolic, because women have historically appeared in public spaces. The feminism that has developed since the 19th century accounts for this; however, this division persists over the places that bodies should occupy in relation to the public and the private. Hence, going out into the streets, being active in them, appropriating the space, is a way of showing what is hidden, because “the personal is political”. Likewise, public space should not be considered a place for consensus but for dissent, where there is a plurality of discourses; therefore, the placement of the Red Shoes installation shows the problem of femicides and gender-based violence of gender in a visible space. 

In addition to placing the shoes in various spaces, the people who participate in the installation can write their feelings and impressions of gender-based violence on small pieces of paper and place them next to the shoes. In this way, there is an important connection with the people who participate in the installation. 

From the street to the museum 

As part of the guidelines to reactivate Red Shoes, the artist requests that once the installation is completed, she be given a pair of shoes, with which, in addition to the public intervention, she builds an artwork. In the exhibition  Vivas estamos, estamos vivas, violentómetro: artivismo y género en la Ciudad de México (We are alive, we are alive!, violentometer: artivism and gender in Mexico City,) which I co-curated with Karen Cordero, at the Regional Museum of Guanajuato Alhóndiga de Granaditas, in the context of the International Cervantino Festival (FIC) 2022. The exhibition sought to provide a historical account of the various feminist protests against gender-based violence that have been carried out in Mexico City and, at the same time, return the political and subversive nature of the actions when they were reactivated in Guanajuato. In the exhibition, the pairs of shoes that Elina has collected from facilities in various countries were presented and, at the same time, two interventions were called for as part of the curatorial proposal. The first of them on the Faculty of Higher Studies campus of León (FES LEÓN), Guanajuato, which belongs to the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), where the students were invited to carry out the intervention.

Likewise, it was reactivated at the Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City. In coordination with the University’s Gender and Inclusion Program, students were invited to donate, paint the shoes and place them in the central esplanade of the University. In this way, the work acquired the potential to reactivate, fragment and transform over time. Red shoes had acquired the potential to be part of an artistic work within an exhibition space, but, at the same time, could also be linked to an intervention in public space.

Reactivation of Red Shoes by Elina Chauvet at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City as part of the activities of the exhibition ¡Vivas estamos, estamos vivas! artivismo y género en la Ciudad de México, 2022 Registry Cecilia Noriega

Finally, we can say that Elina Chauvet’s Red Shoes installation is a very important artwork for feminist art; its reactivation potential has allowed it to reach many places, becoming visible and denouncing gender violence. The work has made evident the body of the absent women who were victims of feminicide, allowing us to see the global nature of gender violence and its particularities through a collaborative, participatory and procedural act, where the community actively intervenes. 



Arendt H., (2005) La condición humana, Barcelona: Paidós

Mouffe Chantal (2012)  Which public Space for Critical Artistic Practices? Recuperado de

Segato R. (2003) Las estructuras elementales de la violencia. Ensayos sobre género, entre la antropología, el psicoanálisis y los derechos humanos, Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, Buenos Aires

———— (2006)  La escritura en el cuerpo de las mujeres asesinas en Ciudad Juárez, Territorio, soberanía y crímenes de segundo estado, México: Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana.


Noriega C. (5 de febrero de 2022) “Entrevista a  Elina Chauvet sobre Zapatos Rojos”

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