The Professor finds a pair

["KD VI What the KD" sneakers]

[“KD VI What the KD” sneakers]

The Professor has been onto the sneaker phenomenon since the days of the very early Air Jordans [his graduate thesis project was about deconstructing the sneaker, literally blowing up the shoe into its constituent parts]. But it has been awhile since a pair of sneakers captured The Professor’s attention. These did. They are part of the Kevin Durant line, specifically the KD VI that releases this Saturday 14 June.  They take the idea of visual saturation to a new level. According to Nike, the power behind the kicks, 35 different colors and patterns make up each pair of shoes. That’s cool and all but that isn’t what interests The Professor the most. He believes these are the best example so far of post-credible sneakers, and that’s why we should pay attention to them.

The Professor prefers the term post-credible culture to post-modern culture. He has been using the term since the late 1980s in his classroom teaching [it also features largely in his Spring 1988 thought-piece “Chaos, Clarity, Post-Credbility and the New International Style” for Innovation]. This cultural condition is, by definition, hard to believe, trust or know how to respond to; it is the looming sense that we are overloaded, can no longer make sense [on almost any level] of the way our lives work and the way that our society seems to veer from catastrophe to disaster, from impending threat to wondrous rescue, with no space or time in-between. It is the sense that you can’t make up the stuff of current events; they are already too bizarre and outlandish and yet so… commonplace. It’s that scary feeling [first identified by novelist Philip Roth] that reality might be more inventive than the stories that the most creative minds of his time could come up with.

To The Professor, the KD VI’s design is the result of the use of the techniques of sampling and appropriation to create what he would call a spectacle of disbelief via a design mash-up. Now big corporations don’t usually “do” mash-ups but, then again, these are not intended to be understood as a pair of athletic shoes that you simply buy and wear; they are much more. The Professor would argue that they have been created to attain instant collector status [as a cult souvenir of the player, the brand, or both], but more significantly, these shoes have been designed to elicit a response of incomprehensibility.

Their full name of these shoes is “KD VI What the KD?” as in, “Dude, what the @#% is up with those shoes?” The Professor sees them as a pair of sneakers that has bombed the graphics to the point of visual overload and beyond, and then celebrated the ensuing hot mess of graphic artificiality in the naming of the shoes as well. In a rarity for shoes, and for consumer products in general, they are meant to bring about disbelief. By so clearly straining comprehensibility and credibility, the “KD VI What the KDs” define the post-credible condition we live amidst. Until such time that we see OLEDs woven, baked or grown into the fabric of the sneaker, enabling continuously changing, full-shoe bioluminescent displays in the manner of a color-morphing cuttlefish, we’ll all have to get our kicks from the amped-up, candy-like color patterns of sneakers like the “KD VI What the KDs” and their ilk. And that’s why they call me The Professor.

[Related note: The Professor encourages motivated artists, designers and makers to compare and connect the KD VI’s to other sneakers they may see as being visually strong. Even better, The Professor suggests referencing projects from other disciplines and different times. Look, for example, to the most design-forward Olympics ever, the 1984 Games in Los Angeles conceived by Deborah Sussman and partner Paul Prejza [Jon Jerde was the architect]; consider the graphically sophisticated, color-rich dress and architecture of the Ndebele people; and lastly, check out the visual energy expressed in certain furniture pieces in the 1980s Memphis collective of Ettore Sottsass and younger colleagues such as Peter Shire and Michele de Lucchi. The Professor sees a connection between all of these projects [and others, too] and wonders if the “KD VI What the KDs” are a pair of shoes that an esteemed owl would wear? [See previous post “The Professor has a dream, writes a dead man,” 12 June 2014]. 
[ADDENDUM] The Professor notes with sadness the passing of Deborah Sussman who died on Monday 18 August 2014 at her home in Los Angeles; she was 83 and lived strong.




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