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Cyril Duval gets inspired by poodles, Rem Koolhaas and Louis Vuitton

French cultural DJ, Cyril Duval treated an Amsterdam audience to a morning of images and ideas during his “Beauty (For Duty) Pageant” during ExperimentaDesign.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 03-10-2008

French cultural DJ, Cyril Duval treated an Amsterdam audience to a morning of images and ideas during his “Beauty (For Duty) Pageant” during ExperimentaDesign.

Designer, stylist and conceptual artist, Cyril Duval, stage name item idem  (a Latin spin meaning same item) is a tough one to categorize.  Which is really the point. For his recent “Beauty (For Duty) Pageant” in Amsterdam he shared the stage with poodles and wore a Japanese Yukata and sleek gold shoes.

Duval’s method is to design shops and installations that lift and transform cultural references for artistic effect; some you get and some you don’t, but through his sampling approach to brands, art and fashion, he forces consumers into a subconscious dialogue with their urban environment and lifestyle.

“I am interested in relocating a surrounding’s parameter into something new,” Duval says.  “Everything I see and perceive is free, permanent food for the foundations of my work.  It might come from pop culture or sometimes art itself.”

"The Wrong Store" was a gallery space Duval designed in Paris.  It looked like a store with a window packed with familiar logos and packaging, but after whetting the public's appetites it left them dry by banning entry. “The Wrong Store was a play on the idea of consumerism,” Duval says.  “You are really thrown because after your desire is activated, it can’t be acted act on.  It’s like anti shopping.”

The idea was such a success that Duval took it to Tokyo with the “The Wrong Office”.  Staged in the window of Loveless, a high-end fashion boutique in Tokyo and to commemorate the launch of the Japanese edition of TOKION Magazine, "The Wrong Office" turned a window display into a working office environment. Duval and his assistant worked for five days in the space - even holding interviews there.

"The clash of styles was beautiful,” says Duval.  “Displaying that sort of messy aesthetic in such a slick retail location, offered the possibility to engender some strong cultural dynamics.  There really were some interesting social interactions on both sides of the window and it was a perfect branding strategy, which is ultimately what I was hired for.”

It was AA Bronson, the only surviving member of Canadian art trio, General idea, who perhaps best defined Duval when he invited him to exhibit in the School For Young Shamans exhibition in New York.  Duval asked Bronson how he finds a shaman.

“The one beyond reason,” Bronson wrote back.  “The kind of person who is totally committed to something, but it is difficult to know just what.  Ultimately they don't care about anything except their own secret way, and yet, at the same time, they are highly ethical, even saintly.  I call them artists!”

And Duval’s way is a secret.  Throughout his presentation images flash:  pictures of his work, pictures of other’s work which he has borrowed, and pictures from just general things that impress him. No distinctions are ever made between commercial or art projects.  “I am not afraid to play with copyrights,” he says, “to reinterpret art history, and create my own place inside of it.”

Images turn into ideas, which end in analysis and switch over to real projects.  And there to help capture the weird yet wonderful way Duval interprets his surroundings are dogs; coiffed poodles to be exact who trot onto the stage before settling onto golden display rings.  

It’s never entirely clear where it is all leading until you realize this is just it.  It’s a process.  Duval pushes his audience into a whirlpool of consumerist imagery.  Then, he shows them how he samples and reworks what’s there to produce critical commentary, but also new work in itself.

Pictures of the Prada Epicenter store in Shanghai flash up.  “I'm a big fan of Rem Koolhaas,” Duval says.  

For his Shanghai project Koolhaas used an existing shopping mall, put Prada’s departments around what already existed, and called it a populist model.

“Populist could be a very negative word,” Duval says, “but Koolhaas uses it with such honesty and I'm very enthusiastic about people who face the truth naked.  He is a big dude, doing a big shop for a big company, and he is being very real about that.”

The Koolhaas reference is just an idea.  A glimpse into what Duval has been thinking about.  Then he switches to images of his own design for Tokyo’s flagship Bernhard Willhelm store that won him a 2007 Frame Magazine Great Indoor Award. The space looks to be inspired by Tokyo’s widespread homelessness, but Duval just hums as he flicks through the pictures.

Next are pictures of works by Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol.  Then, the coat Duval created for the School For Young Shamans exhibition made from cut up Louis Vuitton bags melted together with toxic tar (see main image).  He ends with an hilarious but baffling fitness video for poodles created by renowned Japanse director Nagi Noda.  Random images and realities that defy categorization, but which leave the Amsterdam audience intrigued and a little bit closer to understanding Duval’s way.

One project Duval spends more time exploring is his work with Tobias Wong for Frame’s 50th anniversary issue.  The pair designed an invisible page based on the concept of using editorial space as a medium to show an art piece. “The media becomes the medium itself,” Duval explains.  Page 50, however, of the 50th edition of Frame does not exist.  The only explanation comes on the contents page designed by Shonquis Moreno.  It says:  Page 50 - “On ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur…” In a toast to Frame's 50th issue, Tobias Wong and item idem remind the design world that what is essential is invisible to the eye.

It is a reference to the imaginative genius of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s, The Little Prince. “And a toast to Frame,” Duval says.  “It was a very tight project.  It was very subtle.  It was invisible.”

See Cyril Duval perform in Amsterdam and discuss his work here.

Images: from top -  MIDASPHALTARMACOAT 8002 ( For Joseph Beuys ) photography by item idem, The Wrong Store by Praline Lemoult, The Wrong Office by Yoshitsugu Enomoto,  The Little Prince book cover, the 50th anniversary edition of Frame magazine, Rem Koolhaas’ Prada Epicenter in Shanghai

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