Hygienic Dress League releases Profit of Doom; a photography series of their latest art installation placed throughout various landscapes in Detroit using cast aluminum deer with gas masks painted gold to create a satirical work about the tensions between humans, nature, industry and consumerism.
Profit of Doom, 2017, Photo credit: Joey Badalamenti
Profit of Doom is a series of installations documented with a photography series of life-sized, gold-painted cast aluminum deer with gas masks to create a satirical dialogue about the tensions between humans, nature, industry, and consumerism.
The various environmental juxtapositions create an eerie narrative of a dystopian future by using the pre-existing crumbling infrastructure and landscape that can be found in the city of Detroit. These vignettes are both strikingly beautiful and contextually haunting, exposing the relationship between human apathy, greed and the planet’s altered natural environment. In a frightening political and environmental climate, humans often do not want to believe – or do not care – about the negative impact our actions are having on our planet. In many instances this is because larger forces at play actually benefit from their impact, while creating irreversible harm.
Hygienic Dress League (HDL) is an American corporation registered in 2007 by husband and wife visual artists Steve and Dorota Coy as a new and original form of art. The corporation serves as a platform for critiquing society, greed and wealth inequality, value, over consumption, the art market, and even the art world itself. HDL emphasizes unique public interventions ranging from fleeting projections, guerilla marketing, video holograms, augmented reality, television commercials, and installation art. Their public interventions have surfaced in over nineteen different cities, in nine countries spanning across three continents.
How did this concept develop through deer as the messengers of this warning against human destruction?
We originally conceived the idea from a strikingly powerful image and concept of a deer wearing gas masks. It may sound like post-rationalization but we have been using the iconic imagery of gas masks for a while as part of our visual narrative. It is a symbolic and powerful image in our culture and we decided to apply it to these deer sculptures.
We also often play around with the idea of trendy art or cliché imagery, and I think this rides that line a bit. We have always done that with people in suits with gas masks or people with animal heads- and now with deer with gas masks. It makes the imagery oddly familiar when you flirt with combinations of imagery and symbolism that is popular. Of course our work already has underlying messages about value, consumptions, human behavior, societal structures etc, so these types of projects build onto the ongoing narrative of our conceptual art project.
What is the difference in symbolism between the pigeons that are usually present in your work, and the deer?
The pigeon is our company’s logo. We love it for the ambiguous, generic but familiar feelings it gives people. The pigeon is the most common bird in the world but also often misunderstood as an animal, and we love that. Many people look at them as pests, or rats with wings, meanwhile they are actually quite intelligent animals. Again, our choice for a bird also plays back to the popularity of birds in art, fashion, and other areas of pop-culture (Portlandia’s “Put a Bird On It!,” even references the popularity of it) We choose a perceivably less desirable bird to play into our satire and commentary societies tendencies to imitate. The deer was chosen because it is a indigenous animal, to create a more realistic context for the installations while in Detroit.
Does this medium differ than others you use to communicate with?
Different mediums create different user experiences. We use visuals like language, to identify and define meaning, which can change in any given a context. The projects of various mediums and meanings continue to build on a larger narrative constantly shaping Hygienic Dress League.
How does the landscape of Detroit inspire this work? Do you feel being in the city represents living in the future in a way- as many other major cities in US have not been hit as hard in this kind of way- yet?
Detroit has some unique problems but it also has a lot of problems that other places are facing as well. Being constantly surrounded by blight and abandoned buildings does create a feeling of a dystopian future at times. Though we believe Detroit can and should be a place where we solve both our isolated issues and those common with the world, with creative and unique solutions, breaking the paradigm. Our work is often reflective and critical of some of the causes of Detroit’s current state.
Did you apply any lessons learned from the last time your animals came out to play in creating these image/installations?
We really just had already identified some locations or ‘types’ of locations we wanted and tried not to be too redundant from the other project. Again, context is a really important factor in our work and this project is really the second iteration of the first “radio active animals.” We had different factors to consider this time. Last time we were limited to finding dark spaces so we could get the phosphorous could glow. This was a bit less restricting but we wanted to build off that narrative.
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