In the past few days, a delightful new hashtag on Instagram has turned into an obsession among eccentric art-school types. This conceptual, absurdist net-art meme is #heelconcept, and features users transforming everyday objects into avant-garde, not even remotely wearable high heels. Misty Pollen, aka @m.sty, an artist and textile designer who splits her time between Baltimore and Philadelphia, started the hashtag back in December. "I was using my Instagram primarily for selfies and outfits, but had still-lifes on the mind. I envisioned doing some still-life photography including my limbs as a different approach to self-portraiture.” After an influx of fresh interpretations last week from two of Pollen's Instagram buddies, artist Shahan Assadourian aka @s.hahan, and especially Caley Feeney, aka @puffy_vest, a creative from Portland, the number of #heelconcept posts nearly doubled overnight.
Interestingly, the three have never met in person, but have already been tapped to do a project together by a Swiss fashion magazine as a result of the hashtag’s ascent, and consider themselves kindred spirits in their approach to fashion and design. Says Pollen: "I love how [Feeney] dresses, and I think we both get more love for our looks online than we do where we're living. She started making her own images of mock-shoes before the hashtag even existed. We must have similar minds, I was planning on making my own heel from a sprouted potato when she posted her foot atop the mother of all sprouted potatoes, which is still my favorite #heelconcept so far."
Drawing on artistic traditions ranging from Warhol (lots of canned foods in the mix), to Duchamp's Readymades, to McCarthy (butt-plug incorporation is on the rise), most of the #heelconcept designs utilize ordinary materials such as foodstuffs, dog toys, batteries, household objects, and toiletries. The #heelconcepts range from the minimal (a single mini-pretzel under a bare foot by @twitterdotcomslashhenry) to the involved (lily bean thread noodles, rope, and paperweight over a sock by @puffy_vest; chili peppers, a lobster and a can of Tsingtao by @raaachwark). Other users are going beyond the boundaries of inanimate objects and introducing living creatures, such as Genevieve Belleveau aka @gorgeoustaps' kitten Cuckoo, and someone’s face (by @malaise69).
Art collective Bruce High Quality has made a contribution, nodding back to @m.sty’s original post, with the use of a propped-up cutting mat as a mini-cyclorama. In another fun twist, a few users have cheekily referenced fashion designers in the names of their creations, such as @koko____’s "koko sanel” and @lealorea’s “lu butans.” Whatever Pollen's initial intentions were, it's not a stretch to think that the meme has taken off, in part, because of the beautifully simple way it pokes fun at fashion's absurdities and the way the industry tends to appropriate cheap or low-brow styles and materials only to re-package and sell them at exorbitant prices.
The only downside to all of this? Isabella Blow is not alive to witness it.