Updating traditional icons for a contemporary audience is hardly a new idea, but it’s one that’s happening now more than ever.
In the last month alone we’ve seen everything from 18th Century Dutch furniture to Ming cooking utensils via medieval, boiled leather vessels get a modern makeover, but one of our favourites is Damien Poulain’s Totem project, currently on show at London’s Kemistry Gallery.

damien poulain

See more of Poulain’s totems
The French graphic designer, and previous Wallpaper* collaborator, has created 49 hand-painted totems from reclaimed wood between 10-30cms tall, replacing the native American iconography with things that are held in equivalent esteem for us today.
Were they not nice little objects in themselves, with a fairly tongue-in-cheek attitude, they’d make for quite a depressing indictment of contemporary culture. In Poulain’s eyes the things we deem venerable include Britney Spears’ shaved head, the TV test card and a Pokemon character.
Though a little unsettling they serve to make us question what it is that we worship nowadays in the vacuum of a secular society. Amidst the uncomfortable totems of combination therapy, McDonalds and a Shell logo drenched in oil are some fashion greats (comme, Viktor & Rolf and Gareth Pugh) and the Berlin wall – suggestion maybe that, despite many dire modern icons, we still have creative heroes and the sense to sometimes correct our human errors.