Entertainment

Toiletpaper’s Photos Push the Boundaries of Absurdist Photography

Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari, the duo behind the glossy biannual Toiletpaper magazine, share some new images and talk to us about bananas, inspiration, and humor.

by VICE Staff; photos by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari
May 6 2019, 3:40pm

This portfolio appears in VICE Magazine's 2019 Photo Issue. With this issue we wanted to celebrate the absurd, the lighthearted, and the humorous. It’s important to take a break from the real world. As much as we need to be informed, engaged, and aware, we also need to laugh. We wanted to champion the people making art with a sense of humor. In today’s climate, there’s something nicely subversive about that. You can read more about our theme in the letter from our editor.

Check out an interactive version of the issue here, and why not subscribe to the magazine while you're at it?

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It was a given that we’d ask Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari, the duo behind the glossy biannual Toiletpaper magazine, if they’d contribute new work to this year’s photo issue. They’ve mastered the art of creating images that are guaranteed to be absurd, humorous, colorful, and playful. We first featured them in the magazine in 2012 and haven’t stopped since. They’ve now been in three photo issues and produced four covers for us.

For this issue, they shared three delightfully strange images that appear in the next issue of Toiletpaper. One photo, which inexplicably features two knights in full armor posing with semi-peeled bananas, can be seen on our cover. We caught up with the duo on the inspiration behind their cover, bananas (in general), and what makes them laugh.

VICE: Your cover features a knight in head-to-toe armor posing with a banana. We have a lot of questions about this, but first—why the banana?
Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari: Bananas are important. As humans, they remind us of a lot of other things, and this uncanny and uncomfortable feeling to be in front of something that can also mean something else is the strategy behind every Toiletpaper picture. It is also a topos of modern and contemporary art—from Giorgio de Chirico’s 1913 canvas The Uncertainty of the Poet to Andy Warhol’s 1967 cover for the Velvet Underground & Nico’s debut album—many artists played with the peculiarities of its shape, politicizing it and carving out meanings in their own right.

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What was the inspiration behind the shoot?
We wanted to pay homage to Natalia LL and her performance Consumer Art (which has recently been censored by the Polish government) and to all the protesters that showed up outside Warsaw’s National Museum, armed only with bananas. An additional confirmation, if needed, of the symbolic importance of this fruit.

A sense of humor and surprise has always been a large part of your work. Outside of the images you create, what makes you two laugh?
We are both fans of Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes.

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Toiletpaper has taken on many different forms over the past few years, what are you two excited about next?
Never have expectation is the first rule to get the best from everything you do, and we stick to the rule, literally.

Will you ever have your own branded toilet paper?
Yes, we thought about it, but it would be too sad to flush it!

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When Cattelan and Ferrari submitted their work to us, they included a short manifesto of sorts that is as baffling and entertaining as their photography. Check it out below:

TP Rules For Survival:

  • Being Broke Is Hard, Becoming Rich Is Hard: Choose Your Hard
  • Did I Need It? No. Did I Buy It? Yes.
  • I’m Glad Morning Comes Once a Day
  • Feeling Unspoken Are Unforgettable
  • Anybody Can Be Cool But Awesome Takes Practice
  • As Long as You Don’t Choose, Everything Remains Possible
  • How Many Light Bulbs Does It Take to Change People?
  • Everything Will Be OK So Choose Something Fun
  • Wrong Time Wrong Place
  • Yes We Cat
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Pierpaolo Ferrari and Maurizio Cattelan, the duo behind Toiletpaper magazine.