item idem, also known as Cyril Duval, is an artist and designer currently based in New York who is concerned with studying corporate identities and the “strategy, visual codes, and cultural influences they have on mainstream cultures.” Duval previously lived in Tokyo where he had spells working for Comme des Garçons and Tokion magazine before beginning to work under the umbrella item idem in 2005 while designing the Bernhard Willhelm store in Tokyo. Since then item idem has straddled the divide between commercial design and conceptual art, completing commissions for brands, art institutions and publications.
In the past year item idem has developed a new project with another artist/designer Babak Radboy, called Shanzhai Biennial. An ongoing project with its first incarnation appearing in September 2012 as a commission for Beijing Design Week, it will have a launch in the US later this year. Shanzhai is a Mandarin phrase that broadly describes the production in China of pirated or fake goods as well as the cultural mindset that has developed alongside such products. “Shanzhai Biennial acts as an international brand posing as an art biennial, itself posing as an international brand,” declares Duval. For the project they have worked with local Chinese factories contracting them not only to manufacture but design specific products based on a “set of contradictory instructions. The hazardous results are then selected and embedded in the range of products offered by Shanzhai Biennial.” Duval explains that the method is still a work in progress that only “sometimes works, but mostly doesn’t” and likens it to applying “DADA or FLUXUS games or theories to the garment industry.” The resulting HOLLSISTER and GELINE garments were displayed in an inaccessible pop-up shop in Beijing. Victoria Camblin argues in DIS Magazine that these fakes may ease our social anxiety by actively displaying our complicity in status-deception.
While not explicitly critical in his work, Duval views the best way to comment on the world is to be an active force within it. So, if you want to talk about consumerism, make sure you put yourself in the middle of it. Furthermore he states, “I don’t fully embrace that notion of radicalism in art, I find it a bit weak to be honest. Militancy is for militants, art is for artists.” Another case in point is the item idem website, which he designed in collaboration with the creator of dump.fm and Internet Archaeologies, Ryder Ripps. The site is skinned to look and function like an e-commerce site, except that everything is free. As users browse the inventory, which also happens to be his portfolio, they can add items to a shopping basket that leads them to download pdfs of his work. A playful depiction of hyper consumerism. Besides bringing Shanzhai Biennial to North America this year, Duval will continue to produce work as item idem and has just been invited by Ryan Trecartin to be part of his committee for the Next Generation Triennial in 2015 at New York’s New Museum.
Image 1: Shanzhai Biennial, Campaign #01, photography by Asger Carlsen
Image 2: item idem, website screenshot
Image 3: item idem, Big Beacon (2008)
Image 4: item idem, Felon (2012). Photography by Masha Maltsava.
Courtesy of MILK Studios and the artist