Unpacking Tom Sachs and Nike’s latest space age sneaker
This week, the artist Tom Sachs unveils his latest sculpture: the Nike Mars Yard Overshoe. It is an artefact that conveys the corporeal values of Sach’s sport of making and musing. ‘I take the sock-liners out of my sneakers so that the ground is harder below so I can think clearer. I like to feel my skeletal structure because it’s within all of us,’ says the Wallpaper* Design Awards 2017 judge.
Sneaker-heads rushing to get a pair at Dover Street Market in London on Thursday are dedicated to keeping their kicks clean. They live with rows upon rows of box-fresh styles protected from the patina of life, yet Sachs purposefully creates things that will show wear quickly. ‘I gave a pair to my friend who has them on a shelf and I said, "WTF you have to wear these!" It’s a missed opportunity and worse is the idea that when you put something like that on a pedestal, you deny your own mortality. You’re saying "I will live forever and these shoes will live forever," but ultimately, when you die, it’s all gonna end up in a thrift shop or eBay. These things are meant to be used. Wear it! Wear it to death!’
There is a wary rigour to Sachs’ approach to consumption, craft and consequence. The red metal tabs that secure the sneaker around the foot snap with a pleasing confidence; the crunch of the reinforced shoe bag is at once sensual and sobering. ‘I always try and make stuff look like something that comes from utility first,’ he says. Sachs interrogates the excessive value we place on the next best thing: ‘Instead of recycling everything we should make things that are more durable in order for us not to keep buying things over and over again.’
Paradox Bullets – the accompanying film he made with long-time collaborator Van Neistat – emanates an impish mindfulness. In it, the artist Ed Ruscha gets a parking ticket in the middle of the desert, loses the key to his car just as the battery on his phone dies. The phrase ‘patience is a curse’ sits at the top of the screen, and other humorous life mottos are offered by Werner Herzog who narrates the film, such as ‘if at first you don’t succeed, give up immediately’. Sachs is a critic of consumer culture and an active participant in it: ‘I buy a lot of shit. But there is an opportunity to choose which side of the story you will be on. I choose to make things that are built to last.’ §