Embracing the Absurd: TOILETPAPER X Galerie Blanc

The famous surreal art of Magritte to Dali are variations on the same theme. All exaggerated renditions of reality. Yet, their pieces innately maintain a detachment from reality due to their painted nature. There is an understanding that a painted scene may not necessarily be modeled after what is observed. In this way, painting and photography truly diverge. Photography maintains greater realism due to its nature as a medium. Although a photograph may be staged to depict a narrative, there are real people with real objects, posing to capture the surreal moment. However, one magazine in particular, TOILETPAPER, fuses the surrealism of painting with the realism of photography, acting as an entryway into the fantastical world of the publication. TOILETPAPER merges the absurd, such as the overstated pop art/ culture with the security of a realistic medium, that being photography.

American philosopher of aesthetics, Stanley Cavell, indicates that photographs are of the world, whereas paintings are a world within themselves. TOILETPAPER, however, utilizes the two considerations through the one medium of photography. The photographs thus contain both an out-of-this-world absurdity and a profound realism.

TOILETPAPER is described as the passion project of Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari. The two co-created this biannual photographic magazine. Their photographs are also presented on various media outlets and merchandise. The two use the conventional, such as familiar faces, objects, and locations, with the unconventional.

This artificial realism duality is also witnessed in the strategic placement of the gallery. Galerie Blanc is an outdoor gallery in the streets of downtown Montreal. Each year, this open-air exhibition is dedicated to the workings of a theme or artist. Choosing TOILETPAPER as the featured publication for this year may be a strategic decision. Several aspects of our world are absurd, whether witnessed within politics or pop culture. Many may notice the absurdity of our modern age, yet tend to continue on as a new norm. Likewise, the gallery is pressed between the buildings of our everyday lives. The monotone concrete buildings of the city surround the outrageous outdoor gallery filled with spaghetti printed walls and eye-catching colors. The gallery truly sticks out like a sore thumb, while it is blended into the paths of our habitual lives.

The absurd is something easily recognizable, but eventually adaptable as we continuously become less sensitized. The shock value of TOILETPAPER’s photographs slowly subsides as we settle with the images and inevitably reach the realization that we can relate. Perhaps, the glimpse into the surreal world of TOILETPAPER is not too far from our reality.

Not Far from Absurd: aN aNALYSIS

Pictured on the left represents our reality | Pictured on the right is from TOILETPAPER

(Image I) With the rise of Netflix documentaries, many have explored the controversial industry of animal agriculture. From a young age, we are taught that animal products are very beneficial, whether that be due to its iron, calcium, or protein content. However, documentaries such as Cowspiricy, Food Inc., and Vegecated reveal the toxicity of factory farming, which in turn harm its animals, environment, and human consumers.

(Image II) The piece features the painting over of countries outside the US, consistent with the unfortunate mentality individuals exhibit under Trump’s presidency. The image reflects the moment when president Trump was questioned about his US immigration policy, a country itself founded on immigrants. Trump then responded with the abhorrent response, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

(Image III) Pop culture’s hilarious breakout star, Cardi B reached record highs with her song “I Like It”. The song contains the Latin American beats many current pop songs are featuring, while also containing her confident verses. One of the most iconic lines from the song states, “I like those Balenciagas, the ones that look like socks”. The song thus not only calls out the stylish Balenciaga sneakers, it also remarks on the sock trend many designers are incorporating into their collections both figuratively and literally, adding more comfort and humor to shoes.

Claudia Morgan