Exhibition Review: Toiletpaper Magazine

“A magazine as a platform for art? A different kind of exhibition?”(Toiletpaper Magazine Flyer)

Toiletpaper magazine consist of 21 double-paged photographs with no accompanying text to contextualize the images.  Conceived by the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, Tolietpaper, in denying the reader context or explanation claims to, “like the internet, allow all image types and forms to exist side-by-side, equalized and ‘liberated’ and without any hierarchy.” (Flyer)

Cattelan, working with the photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari, creates the magazine using a combination of “found images” ripped from the internet as well as original photography inspired by these “found images.”

Instead of focusing on one particular issue of the magazine, I will instead examine toiletpapermagazine.com as an exhibition.  Like the magazine, the website features photographs with no text to contextualize it. The website also includes video art.  Upon review it’s clear that the website has an additional aim the magazine does not-the website is trying to sell the magazine. The website features links to press reviews of the magazine, videos glamorizing the magazines launch party, etc.

Beyond promoting the magazine, the website has little if no commercial motives. Toiletpaper is completely funded by the DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art, so the publication has no need for advertisers or marketers. (Flyer)

Image Only

In Toiletpaper, Cattelan’s images exist without context: the photos have neither text to explain them nor are they bound by any sort of theme. As Cattelan explains in a W Magazine article that ran with the magazine’s launch, “There is no theme but a sort of mood…Some of the pictures are more durable than others. But, you know, that’s the story of any magazine.” (Zong)

With no rational structure to the exhibit, the burden of finding meaning in the image is placed solely on the viewer. Cattelan trusts the image’s ability to communicate ideas, to deliver complete thoughts even though they may appear fanciful or without reason.

Photos from the Toilet

The magazines name is Cattelan’s comment on the disposable nature of the image, “Sooner or later all magazines end up in the toilet.” (Zong) Cattelan underlines this idea by featuring found images in his exhibition as well as using found images as the inspiration for original photography. In this sense, the contents of the magazine are literally from the trash or the toilet- discarded or forgotten items that have been resurrected.

Not only the images from the toilet, but the subject matter itself is from our culture’s figurative “toilet.” His subjects include: Nuns shooting heroin, tacky silverware from the 70s and 80s, a young boy being drown in a bath tub by an older man- remnants of our neglected or discarded cultural history. By bringing the “toilet” to the forefront, by creating an exhibition of items that belong in the toilet, Cattelan is forcing us to deal with the marginalized or discarded parts of our culture.

Out of the Past

Beyond using found images as a starting point, the photos exhibited seem to appropriate an aesthetic of the past, in particular that of the late 1950s early 1960s. Many of the situations presented in the photos highlight what seem now to be obvious contradictions associated with the time they are set in.

In this photo a maid with next to nothing on, surrounded by household cleaning items such as a vacuum cleaner, a duster, a strainer. The late 50s, early 60s atomic age aesthetic seems to suggest that she existed in a time where women were objectified as much as their cleaning supplies. The hypocrisy seems obvious when set in the past.

This idea is expressed in other pieces of the exhibit, for example this video of a barely clad women, tagged with clothes pins. While she appears to have her own liberated sense of sexual agency, she at the same time is tagged with the expectation of domestic servitude. At the end of the video the pins pop off. Again, by looking backwards issues of morality become clearer and easier to distinguish.

pins video

Using the aesthetic of the past, the ridiculousness of the wolfman pictured in the exhibition and the bad taste of 70s silverware displayed becomes undeniable. Whither its vulgar images, startling reminders of unequal gender roles of 60 years ago, or tacky furniture- Toiletpaper highlights the parts of our past we would like to forget. It reminds us of the things we’ve placed in the toilet and confronts with the reality of our disposable culture.

Works Cited

Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferra Present the Magazine Toiletpaper. Flyer. Toiletpapermagazine.com/pdf/flyer_toiletpaper_e.pdf. Accessed on 3/25/12

Zong, Fan. DEC 1 Maruzio Cattelan. W Magazine December 2010.  http://www.wmagazine.com/artdesign/2010/12/maurizio_cattelan. Accessed on 3/25/12. 

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