Sebastian Errazuriz: 12 Shoes for 12 Lovers

Bombardment with images is making us aesthetically obese, but 21st century tech is equipping artists with a new range of tools, says artist and designer Sebastian Errazuriz

Feature by Cathleen O'Grady | 01 Aug 2014

“3D printing is the new industrial revolution. It’s going to change absolutely everything about the way makers create things,” says Chilean designer and artist Sebastian Errazuriz. “Even though the tech we have now is super-basic – it’s the equivalent of Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs’ first Mac right out of their garage; it sucks right now – but in 10, 15 years it’s going to be very advanced, and it’ll be a lot easier for people to do things with it.”

Errazuriz worked with shoe company Melissa to create the 3D-printed 12 Shoes for 12 Lovers, a collection of twelve shoes inspired by the memories of Errazuriz' ex-girlfriends. The shoes, which recently exhibited at Edinburgh's Summerhall, vary distinctly in tang and tone: the decidedly bitter Cry Baby bemoans the briefness of a brief post-breakup comfort fling, while Honey is a fine, yellow, honeycomb mesh alluding to the sweetness of a nurturing lover. The highly textured, barely shoe-shaped Rock, by far the least aesthetically sleek piece in the collection, conveys the pit-in-the-stomach heaviness of love and the stability of a more meaningful sweetheart. 

Using 3D printing rather than more traditional techniques had no impact at all on the process of creation, declares Errazuriz, other than allowing him to create ideas that he wouldn't have otherwise been able to bring to life. On the contrary, he sees visual art as being greatly enabled by a greater arsenal of digital tools: “The medium that captures an idea in the purest form with the fewest distractions allows the audience to see it in its purest form, and is closest to the experience of the artist. When we’re limited in our techniques and skills, obviously we can do less. The more precise the tools we have within the visual arts world, the better images we will be able to construct.” However, there is a value judgement attached to the use of plastic as a material, because “we tend to think that a piece made in a more valuable material is a more valuable piece. If I had done these pieces in marble, they would be more valuable as sculptures.”

The material and medium lead people to label the work as design rather than art, he notes, adding that it’s just a matter of time before perception changes. “Design is all about function, and art is not supposed to function, so the more a functional piece gets decontextualised and taken to the world of meaning, the more it becomes art. [The shoes] are sculptural, they have a background story, and they could be presented side by side with a sculptural piece, but they lack a stronger intellectual depth or political depth." Errazuriz doesn’t take the collection particularly seriously, at times coming close to disparaging it: “It’s a light project, just a series of very beautifully made exercises that expect to steal a smile from people, and get them to imagine other possibilities. It’s no more pretentious than that.”

New media might be opening up new techniques and tools, but the constant glut of images resulting from information overload is deadening our reaction to art. “After a certain point, you start to become aesthetically obese, hoarding images to a point where images have a really hard time getting to you. The chance of a child these days having an image stay with her for even a week is low, because her visual consumption is so fast right now, and her ability to retain anything is so little."

This image overload makes the 21st century a double-edged sword for artists, Errazuriz thinks. It brings them more tools, but also a more difficult task. "Artists need to create work that is much sharper than it needed to be before, to really reach people and burn something in their unconscious.”