Forget style and comfort, can your shoes carry you through harsh floods or extreme heat? Icelandic artist and designer Sruli Recht has reimagined the future of footwear through his latest capsule collection, Damage, in collaboration with creative consultancy, INDUSTRY, in Portland, Oregon. Just as clothing has evolved to suit the functional needs of human beings for centuries, Recht’s latest work implies transformation, but with shocking commentary on the future of the climate.
The project comprises shoes for three different conditions - VENICE_HEEL - HI/Lo, a shoe for walking in deep water; PHASE_CHANGE, a shoe for cooling the body in extreme heat; and Un_BALANCED, a shoe that addresses the ageing population’s terminal balance problems.
Why footwear? Recht feels that shoes essentially define your movement, and when humans are at the centre of destroying our planet, what will our movement look like?
“Footwear is such a unique thing; it connects us to the earth for a large part of the day. But the days are changing. Every city is flooding or burning. [The collection] highlights our very ability to be mobile if our own agency continues to change as we change our climate,” Recht states.
Through Damage, Recht hopes to start important conversations about the human condition and the “lack of attention, education, and action” on our part, adding, “it expresses views on the results of carelessness, entitlement, and impulsivity, as a result of education gaps, greed and a disconnection from the environment.”
Although the collection is a work of fiction, Recht states that “design fiction is an incredibly effective tool, it is an evolution on storytelling, always has been.” He feels that design fiction creates a visual memory that is hard to shake and believes audiences will put themselves in the story, which “creates a pathway to a form of empathy to the topic.”
“Science fiction doesn't aim to disconnect us from the problems of the real world, rather it highlights a speculative exploration of where we go next,” he continues.
When it comes to hope for the future of the climate, Recht doesn’t have much, as he believes that when humans are detached from struggle, they don’t consider how much their actions affect others. “Things are now someone else’s problem, and nothing seems to affect us directly. We are so far removed from our understanding of generational time that we can't contextualise the temporal direct effect from what we do or don’t do.” He feels that this self-centred mentality is counterproductive to our survival, because when individualism triumphs, “the system collapses.”
“The climate crisis is a very real, very present, very immediate problem that can’t be compartmentalised. Just like we see with the pandemic, it is someone else’s problem until you catch it. Doing nothing is an action, an action that is contrary to the solution,” he concludes.
It's time, to place ourselves in Recht’s shoes.