"We are in a state of perpetual war – with ourselves and with the eco-system that sustains us," says Diddo, a conceptual artist with designs on keeping alive debates that are uncomfortable but essential. "Perpetual war breeds perpetual fear. In the present context, this fear stems from our extreme desire for authenticity and manifests itself in our collectively insatiable culture of consumption. Deep down, we are afraid we may never be satisfied." Using the power of myth, "iconic" brands prey on our fears, explains Diddo, compelling us to buy-buy-buy. "Designer Gas Masks is an attempt to visualize this state of mind."
Marrying the Military Industrial Complex and the inate ridiculousness of much (if not most) designer fashion imagery - at a shotgun wedding, if you will - is indeed a compelling way to fire a warning shot across the bow.
Diddo's work has attracted the attention of Lady Gaga, Sasha Baron Cohen and - no surprise - that mask-loving schmucklovich, Kanye West. Celeb factor aside, I do like the way he is taking existing ideas and recontextualizing them. Enough already with political agendas or, worse, the "carefully curated" viewpoint (ugh); it's high time we examine the gap between what we choose to think and the extent to which we've outsourced our thinking. "My work is an attempt to define the border between perception and reality, and the process, which turns image into icon," adds Diddo. "I show us things we don’t want to want, but we do.”
Diddo notes the piece was designed to encourage us to look at our fashion fixations and simultaneously feel both disgust and material yearning. I also found it interesting that he chose to use that quintessential symbol of all hell breaking loose, the gas mask, which is quintessentially Apocalytical,* the fashion tribe most overtly concerned with the end of the world as we know it.
And are feeling fine.
*NOTE: IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT EACH FASHION TRIBE, START HERE.
Podcast music: Kevin MacLeod, Incompetech.com
- Lesley Scott