Converse consumption : the converse blank canvas project

Gomez, Rafael E. (2012) Converse consumption : the converse blank canvas project. [Exhibition/Event]


Research background

For almost 80 years the Chuck Taylor (or Chuck T's) All Star basketball shoe has been an iconic item of fashion apparel. The Chuck T's were first designed in 1921 by Converse, an American shoe company and over the decades they became a popular item not purely for sports and athletic purposes but rather evolved into the shoe of choice for many subcultural groups as a fashion item. In some circles the Chuck Taylor is still seen as the "coolest" sneaker of all time - one which will never go out of fashion regardless of changing trends.

With over 600 millions pairs sold all over the world since its release, the Converse shoe is representative of not only a fashion culture - but also of a consumption culture - that evolved as the driving force behind the massive growth of the Western economic system during the 20th Century.

Artisan Gallery (Brisbane), in conjunction with the exhibition Reboot: Function, Fashion and the Sneaker, a history of the sneaker, selected 20 designers to customise and re-design the classic Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars shoe and in doing so highlighted the diversity of forms possible for creative outcomes. As Artisan Gallery Curator Kirsten Fitzpatrick states “We were expecting people to draw and paint on them. Instead, we had shoes... mounted as trophies.." referring to the presentation of "Converse Consumption".

The exhibition ran from 21 June – 16 August 2012:

Research question

The Chuck T’s is one of many overwhelmingly commercially successful designs of the last century. Nowadays we are faced with the significant problems of overconsumption and the stress this causes on the natural ecosystem; and on people as a result. As an active member of the industrial design fraternity – a discipline that sits at the core of this problem - how can I use this opportunity to comment on the significant issue of consumption? An effective way to do this was to associate consumption of goods with consumption of sugar. There are significant similarities between our ceaseless desires to consume products and our fervent need to consume indulgent sweet foods.

Artisan Statement

Delicious, scrumptious, delectable... your pupils dilate, your blood pressure spikes, your liver goes into overdrive. Immediately, your brain cuts off the adenosine receptors, preventing drowsiness. Your body increases dopamine production, in-turn stimulating the pleasure receptors in your brain. Your body absorbs all the sweetness and turns it into fat – while all the nutrients that you actually require are starting to be destroyed, about to be expelled. And this is only after one bite! After some time though, your body comes crashing back to earth. You become irritable and begin to feel sluggish. Your eyelids seem heavy while your breathing pattern changes. Your body has consumed all the energy and destroyed all available nutrients. You literally begin to shut down. These are the physiological effects of sugar consumption. A perfect analogy for our modern day consumer driven world. Enjoy your dessert!

Research contribution

“Converse Consumption” contributes to the conversation regarding over-consumption by compelling people to reflect on their consumption behaviour through the reconceptualising of the deconstructed Chuck T’s in an attractive edible form. By doing so the viewer has to deal with the desire to consume the indulgent looking dessert with the contradictory fact that it is comprised of a pair of shoes. The fact that the shoes are Chuck T’s make the effect even more powerful due to their iconic status. These clashing motivations are what make “Converse Consumption” a bizarre yet memorable experience.


The exhibition was viewed by an excess of 1000 people and generated exceptional media coverage and public exposure/impact. As Artisan Gallery Curator Kirsten Fitzpatrick states “20 of Brisbane's best designers were given the opportunity to customise their own Converse Sneakers, with The Converse Blank Canvas Project.” And to be selected in this category demonstrates the calibre of importance for design prominence.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 63604
Item Type: Creative Work (Exhibition/Event)
Refereed: No
Funders: Artisan Gallery, Converse Shoe Company
Material: Cloth, Rubber and Glass
Measurements or Duration: 200mm wide x 300mm high
Number of Pieces: One
Published Source:
Publisher: Artisan Gallery
Location: From date: To date:
Artisan Gallery, Brisbane 2012-06-21 2012-08-16
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Design, Converse Sneaker, Reboot: Function, Fashion and the Sneaker, Artisan Gallery, Design Practice, Converse Consumption
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN (120000) > DESIGN PRACTICE AND MANAGEMENT (120300) > Design History and Theory (120301)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN (120000) > DESIGN PRACTICE AND MANAGEMENT (120300) > Industrial Design (120305)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 Rafael Gomez
Deposited On: 29 Oct 2013 00:22
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2013 00:22

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