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Item Idem Climbs Mount Blushmore

The artist formerly known as Cyril Duval shows Wintour, Versace, Galliano and Lagerfeld in a different light at Moscow's Garage art centre

Dysfashional is a nomadic art show that questions boundaries and subtle hierarchies between fashion and contemporary art, curated by Emanuele Quinz et Luca Marchetti. Various artists and designers are asked to discuss sartorial matters without ever bringing clothes into the equation. These range from Hussein Chalayan to Gaspard Yurkievich in collaboration with Coco Rosie, and conceptual artist Item Idem. After travelling to Paris, Berlin, and Lausanne, the exhibition is currently on show at Moscow’s leading contemporary art space, Garage.

Dazed Digital met up with Item Idem, formerly known as Cyril Duval, in Moscow. The Paris-born artist is currently taking refuge in New York. After working for Comme des Garçons, he now produces multimedia pieces that dissect modern-day vices. He told us all about his piece on show, ‘Mount Blushmore', a majestic crystal engraving that morphs Mount Rushmore with Anna, Karl, John, and Donatella resulting in a hybrid between a kitschy tourist souvenir and a mausoleum.

Dazed Digital: In a nutshell, what is the piece about? Vanity in fashion?
Cyril Duval:
Pretty much, but maybe more about vanity in general. The cultural persona has become more important than the work itself, and medias are highly responsible for this. Picasso notoriously said "My mother said to me: 'If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.' Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso." He knew already that his aura would live on forever. My piece starts and ends by referencing living contemporary pharaohs. The funeral aesthetic I deployed is specifically inspired by Japanese Ikebana works conceived as a gigantic memorial/mausoleum. But again, who knows, maybe I was just commenting on plastic surgery or the Muppet Show?

DD: What is the underlying message about fashion?
Cyril Duval:
None really, I would rather avoid being pigeonholed as a societal commentator on fashion; some would do it better than me (sigh).... But maybe commenting on fashion is a good point to help kids stopped being enthralled by unimportant issues, ultimately. No offence, but does the world really need one or more Bryanboy commenting on the newest handbag, whilst knowing about global geopolitics and cultural differences, getting involved with their local environment to start with, or simply reading books and seeing exhibitions should be the main thing they should worry about.

DD: You have worked in fashion, how does it influence your work as an artist?
Cyril Duval:
Luckily, I only worked for Comme des Garcons really, which is definitely not the worst label when it comes to consumeristic intellect reduction... My personal influences comes from my own life experiences, and that is why I emerged through retail culture as a modern paragon of the commercial culture Warhol emphasised and played with.

DD: you have shown this piece several times before, how does it this new Moscow context ‘change’ it?
Cyril Duval:
I have always been fascinated by how savvy Moscow youth is, even if of course if my understanding of it is very genuine and probably quite ignorant. Coming out of the USSR block disintegration has emerged a generation of yuppies, quickly followed by a newer wave which I personally con as a curious and reflected generation of individuals. I see them as less ignorant and pretentious than the spoiled European or American generations, and their humbleness is something that I definitely appreciate. Moscow, because it is not being (yet) considered as a main capital for mainstream culture, offers more potential and appears less blindsided than New York, London, or Paris.

DD: If you had to be reincarnated in either Wintour, Versace, Galliano or Lagerfeld, which one?
Cyril Duval:
Please don't ask me this! Of course it would have to be Karl Lagerfeld, what a question... He's a juggernaut, but also a well of culture and knowledge, and I have no issue at all with him being praised as a living demi-god & experiencing his power as such: he is more than historically relevant, a survivor who conquered all his accomplishments through hard labor, patience & wit, the ultimate Praying Mantis!

“Dysfashional” is open at the Garage Art Center, Moscow, until Nov 29th. It will then travel to the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin next year. Photos by Maxim Emelyanov.