Those €23 Emporio Armani disposable diapers for Russian babies were indeed a hoax — a very elaborate, convincing, absorbent hoax.
After receiving an invitation to a “discussion” about the diapers during New York Fashion Week, we naturally posted the nappy nonsense. But we did so with a healthy dose of irony and a giant proverbial disclaimer that it was very likely a joke, even if the ad image and website looked alarmingly real.
Then we heard from the publicist of a Russian artist, Petro Wodkins, claiming to be behind the hoax, and asked if we wanted to interview him. Sure! If it’s true that “No one knows it was Petro who did it and especially Armani are very eager to find out, since they want to shut the page down,” as the publicist said, we have a responsibility to interview him. It’s our doodie…
So, after convincing a lot of people that the diapers were real, do you think the project was a success?
I hope that I managed to get people to reflect on the topic of consumerism, that they got a chance to laugh, but also question why they actually believed in this. But basically, in my art, I’m happy if I can get people to just think, about something, not necessarily sharing my view on life.
Do you think any rich Russians saw the ad and called Armani because they wanted to buy some diapers?
Yes, people wanted to buy this. If they were rich Russians or someone else, I do not know. But I think there will be luxury diapers in the future for sure … Armani says they are not going to do diapers. I think it was in Yahoo that they said it was a stupid idea. They will do whatever it takes, and diapers isn’t that bad. I have a couple of diapers that some art dealers already said they wanted to buy, but they are a little dirty and one can’t be sold at all, ever. Babies, you know.
What is the message you wanted to convey? We assume you are indicting crass commercialism and the Russian oligarchy?
The fashion industry is pushing the boundaries of modern consumerism. Nowhere else are the brands as strong and capitalizing as much on secondary products. I wanted to see what happened if I pushed the boundaries, to see if anyone would react. There’s always been outside pressure on people to serve the community or society. People sacrifice and abandon what they deep down think is right for a higher purpose, to belong and to find shelter and comfort. Fashion magazines are the new religion. But mainly, I’m trying to make people see, not necessarily what I want them to see but at least to open their eyes. And maybe make people realize that what they wish for might come true. There’s a cruel logic to the golden iPod with diamonds sold at Harrods for $1,000,000.
How is Armani going after you? Have they sent you legal letters?
Nope, I don’t think they know it was me yet, but I am open to have a coffee with them if they’d like to, instead of legal letters. But maybe they don’t like me. I like them. I like a lot of people not liking me back. But that’s who I am. I do my best to make people realize who they really are.
Please give us a hint of your next artistic mockery.
Keep your eyes open and you will see more of me. This was a small experiment and I will continue on this topic. But in general I do not talk about my pieces that much before, that would crash much of the fun.