Since his emergence as street artist in the early 2000s, Desire Obtain Cherish (DOC) has become known as pop sculptor working across a wide variety of different media and a combination of styles including street, pop, conceptual and appropriation art. His controversial art work explores contemporary desires and obsessions. Transporting controversial, satirical messages, Desire’s vibrantly colorful, entertaining and impeccably produced art exposes society’s inability to control itself and examines the commercial promise of fulfillment and happiness that ends in dependency. Meant to have an impact on its audience, DOC employs sarcasm to tackle and provoke society’s value system. Some of cultures we deal with are getting their first taste of middle class wealth, and at the same time being exposed, for the first times to western status symbols. In many cases, we are not exporting democracy as much as we are spreading capitalism, and that brings with it an evolution through choice and distraction. You put those choices into the hands of someone with a tenuous connection to their own history and you have someone who is lost. In the worst case, you get someone fully committed to the idea of a disposable society. But in exporting these choices, we also export the ideas and messages of Desire Obtain Cherish with a hope that someone possibly sees these pieces and understands that there are others around the world having the same kind of discussions about this weird point in time, and perhaps in that they may take solace.
ASM: How did you get the name Desire Obtain Cherish?
DOC: When you are out on the street and pay attention to all the advertising, you will notice that these ads are paid for; and whether one is taking a walk to think, or just driving down the road, one does not get a choice in what one is confronted with. But as artists, we can choose how to respond. One day, a guy asked me to go out and put up some posters; and I ended up putting up the words Desire, Obtain, Cherish because to me that is what these billboards are telling you- Desire This, Obtain This and then you Cherish It, right? Only to start all over again with the next billboard, the next distraction, or the next unfulfilled moment. So I put up the three words, and that is how it started - it was just three words that I began using to hijack billboards, before allowing the concept to grow into other types of images.
ASM: When you moved into sculpture was there an intuitive evolution of message or did you have to plan it out consciously?
DOC: The first pieces I did for the gallery were reproductions of some of the fallen ice cream sculptures I had first made for the street; and the reason I made them initially was to comment on the idea of disposability and distraction. We are so distracted, that something we enjoy, something we have craved for seems to be in perpetual loss as a byproduct of the cyclical and destructive notion of this Pursuit of Happiness; even though it is a perfectly good ice cream, you still toss it and move on. So on the streets, I had this exaggeratedly large ice cream cone- cracked and melted on the sidewalk, which I blocked off around it using a police tape as one would do with a crime scene. This scene was an attempt to interrupt and distract people the same way- making their ice cream drop. With this sculptural work, my images are living within the context of an art gallery, and I want to make art that is engaged with the social elements typically existent there with my audience being the same. I am not simply going to walk into a gallery to do what I think would be considered “fine art.” I am going to do things that I think are simple, direct and that encapsulate the spirit of the same kind of person who responds to my street work.
“… We are so distracted, that something we enjoy, something we have craved for seems to be in perpetual loss as a byproduct of the cyclical and destructive notion of this Pursuit of Happiness…”
ASM: Your work seems incredibly dense and concise
DOC: The more honest you are with somebody, the more they can appreciate you. So the more I can tell you exactly what something is, the more you are going to value that experience. With art most of the time, there is a sense that things should be exclusive or should take an enormous amount of education or acculturation to understand. But coming from the street art would I have had a sense that this material could be inclusive? I think I could have bene heady if I had chosen. But I do not think that approach is any fun. I could paint a Mondrion dripping into a Jackson Polack which could take ten thousand words link in text, and still not have the kind of demonstrative street based energy that comes from simply posting such an image. I could make a giant lollypop and have a kid come into the room, smile and hug it. But we can also talk about what the lollypop means and how we live in a psychological space where things have become instantly disposable and having both kinds of engagement with the piece simultaneously seems to deepen the effect of each.
“…the more honest you are with somebody, the more they can appreciate you. So the more I can tell you exactly what something is, the more you are going to value that experience…”
ASM: A lot of what we associate with Desire Obtain Cherish is the label work, totems of status and the repurposing of luxury branding. What interested you in these symbols?
DOC: If I told you or I showed you how messed up the world is, it would be dark. It may be very poignant, but you would not want to see it or to buy it, and we would not be having this discussion. There would be another artist out there with your attention. But if I show you what is wrong with us, and I package it really well and present it to you as something so beautiful- perhaps as a part of something you are already familiar wit has a place in your heart. Maybe it is something you desire but cannot afford, you will want and accept it. You will laugh at it in a way, and maybe release the need to take yourself so seriously. You want something that tells you how amazing you are; and you want to feel amazing. We all do and that is the power of these brands. That is what they have become—it is that simple. We desire a marker and we have given up the power to determine quality. We have delegated that away willingly. It is what we tell ourselves and it is what we feed our babies. It is forged into us; it has become something beyond product, and evolved into culture. I have had people who own huge stakes in some of these brands come into my booth and laugh because they are in on the joke.
ASM: Do you think the process involved in this cultural shift is in any way dehumanizing or problematic?
DOC: Has it ever been any other way? If we were cave men and we were making food and you had a better bowl, wouldn’t I want it; make one like it and paint it? Maybe red, making you want something similar? In that example, there seems to be a connection between the person who paints the bowl, and the person who ultimately cherishes the bowl; and in a sense that bowl says something indelible about them. It bears their craft and forms an extension of a person’s identity. There seems to be a distinction between this and the creation of one’s identity through the appropriation of a standardized luxury object.
ASM: Do you feel like there’s anything lost in this process?
DOC: Well it is not to me and I do not care. I am not a political artist. I leave you to think and feel what you want with the work. I once sat in on a college critique, and I heard something that stuck with me. A professor said to me that “a poem consists of beautiful words and phrases, but you can take a world of beautiful words and phrases together and not have a poem.” I think that speaks to something that I am constantly trying to address with my work. You can gather the trappings of quality and luxury- but without grace, and in the spirit of their ultimate user, they can become something bizarre…..something wrong.