Dutch conceptual artist Diddo creates provocative works, although provocation isn't their purpose, rather a by-product of the meaning behind his pieces. On their own, they're not shocking, but given the context of our own understanding and relationship to the themes - they are.
Cocaine is everywhere. It's a drug steeped in blood, marred by violence but yet is an economic pillar. It's all of these things and we love it. It's also one of the few common denominators between all social classes and countries.
Diddo saw the effect and power this drug has over us. In his cerebral creation Ecce Animal he makes a mould of a human skull from ounces of the drug bought on the street. It's a part of us. A part of the money we use - whether to consume, supply or buy. He argues that it's as intrinsic to us as the very foundation of our being - our bones.
It's not a glamourization of or warning against the drug. It's a violent observation that is hard to take - no matter our feelings towards the drug. In a striking white, he has it placed on a vaguely mirrored base with the drug looking almost part-ready for consumption. He's waving it in front of us, asking if we want it. If it attracts or repulses his audience - what does that say about them?
The skull he says, "quite directly relates to danger" although he doesn't feel compelled to pontificate about the potential dangers himself. The artist states that "my idea revolved around the tension between our ‘human’ side and our ‘animal’ side." In a sense, it's the idea of control v pleasure. Instant v delayed gratification. It's temptation that comes with a warning sticker.
Fascinated by our individual agency, Diddo also intended the piece as an exploration of how we think and why we think what we do. Are our thoughts on the drug and our idea of mortality based on experience? Books? Films? Whatever it is, is that the best thing to be informed by? Accompanying each piece is a short poem - another source of information for us to decide whether we absorb or discard, whether it affects how we see and feel about the piece, or not.
Once we were animals.
Like any other, we lived in an environment of fear and want.
Then, we became 'human' and aspired to be better.
We learned to control our environment but the fear stayed,
because we never learned to control ourselves.
It is frightening to look at the face of our animal side laid bare
by comfortable excess; the spoils of its aggression.
But what exactly is it about this image that is so confronting?
Is it this division in our idea of self?
Or is it a realization that though we have mastered the outside world,
we will always remain subservient to our inner selves.
The skull comes as part of a portfolio of work including 'Designer Gasmasks' - a piece based on our perception of the Military Industrial Complex and the place of high-fashion in society. Gasmasks, once a neccessity in homes under the constant threat of damaging agents, came in different shapes and sizes, even children had their own shaped like Mickey Mouse. An understandable, but truly horrifying image.
Gaskmasks were designed to save lives in a very literal sense, yet the language surrounding high-fashion and our individual image contains phrases like, 'I'd kill for that' or 'I'd die if I looked like that'. These are serious words used in a very un-serious context. The fashion industry is a super-charged reflection of elite lifestyles, far removed from the reality of most.
By clashing the two, he's questioning their individual value. Is the gasmask worth more because it is wrapped in Louis Vuitton printed leather? In case of emergency - would you really rather one than the other? If not, then who and why do we place value on what we do?
Mortality and morality, the choices faced everyday and the influence of popular culture all motivate Diddo's conceptual works to see how far he can take them and what he must do to accurately reflect his audience's own lives back to them. On his website it states that 'He shows us things we don’t want to want, but we do.' That's what it all boils down to. We are sophisticated and complex beings, forever at the whim of our basest instincts. We know it to be true, but we hate it when someone shows us.
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