These “high fashion gas masks” by Dutch conceptual designer Diddo Velema captivated my eyeballs. But it’s his words about the project that really stuck with me.
We are in a state of perpetual war – with ourselves and with the eco-system that sustains us. 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.
This fear of being exposed as being lesser-than affects every aspect of our culture, including our own little microcosm. If you have the slightest doubt about it, go look at any designer toy “fan” forum and watch grown men oppress each other over who has been collecting the most expensive toys for the longest period of time.
Deep down, we are afraid we may never be satisfied. An expanding archive of branded myths and icons feeds this fear. Designer Gas Masks is an attempt to visualize this state of mind. Because it is only by first acknowledging and then challenging fear that we will all be able to breathe a little easier.
I would even extend his point further: it’s not only that we’re afraid we may never be satisfied, it’s that we may have lost our understanding of what satisfaction even is. We have everything on-demand with instant gratification. I used to know the song titles on the cassette tape I owned. Now, I’m lucky if I remember the album name. I buy a toy. I feel fleeting joy. I want another one. Does this cycle sound familiar?
If you think I’m projecting my own anxieties onto unrelated Gucci gas masks, you’d only be partially right. In looking through Velema’s (very cool) profile, I found that he is responsible for Mishmash, a site that “collects collectors”:
We all seem to be collecting something or the other in life. We seek objects that help us remember, relive and curate our experiences. Or those of others, from other eras. Still, some of us infuse so much joy and passion into the act of collecting, they transform it into art. Like artists, they seek above, beyond and behind ordinary perception and find rare and exceptional beauty in the most unexpected places.
Velema would understand the need to consume. After all, he collects designer toys, Japanese toys, sneakers, cameras and…of course…cassette tapes.