Toiletpaper (stylized as “TOILETPAPER”) is a biannual magazine co-created by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan and photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari. Founded in 2010, the magazine is presented as a limited edition book and its website offers a post-internet collaged exhibition of animated and video content.
The photography-based publication contains no articles or advertisements, and each issue revolves around a basic theme, such as love or greed. The brightly-coloured, surreal images vary in style and reference, and include word play and optical illusions. Hailed as “a new frontier of media and creative eco-sustainability,” Toiletpaper is interpreted as a democratized art platform whose accessible images circulate in books and throughout social media, while also being applied to design and home decor products. To celebrate their purported “one-millionth” magazine sale, Cattelan and Ferrari opened their first Toiletpaper pop-up shop in Milan.
Cattelan and Ferrari first collaborated in 2009 on W Magazine’s Art Issue; continuing their working relationship with an editorial for TAR Magazine. In an interview with Vogue Italia, Ferrari mentions that Toiletpaper is a passion project between him and Cattelan, which emerged as a mental outburst from a common obsession. “Each picture springs from an idea, even a simple one, and then becomes a complex orchestration of people who build tableaux vivants.”
At the opening night of Cattelan’s retrospective at the Guggenheim, a Hummer stretch limo with the word “toiletpaper” printed on the side was parked outside the museum to announce the magazine’s launch. Funded by Greek collector Dakis Joannou’s Deste Foundation,Toiletpaper is presented in book-form with all visual material designed exclusively by its creative team, which includes art direction by Micol Talso and set design by Michela Natella.
Cattelan and Ferrari describe how they use their digital cameras like filmmakers to explore their models and sets from multiple angles. Reflecting the duo’s aversion to traditional and exclusionary practices of art display, Toiletpaper photographs are mass produced as salable merchandise. In keeping with their democratizing mission, Cattelan is quoted saying, “Pierpaolo and I are like sadistic scientists: everything around us can be infected by the ‘TP’ virus.”
Naming the project organically, Ferrari recalls that Cattelan came up with the title of the magazine while in the bathroom, quipping, “Sooner or later all magazines end up in the toilet.”
In June 2010 Toiletpaper began as an artist book and magazine containing only full-spreads of colour photographs that appropriated commercial photographic, Dadaist, and Surrealist aesthetics. William S. Rubin describes surrealism as a methodological approach to a topic of interest. While Dada was formed in 1916 as a criticism of the art culture in Europe, Surrealism stems from a similar mindset in the sense that it parodies or exaggerates an idea without losing its ground in reality.
Toiletpaper pokes fun at the art world with its photo-collages that fuse the languages of commercial and fine art photography, with provocative staged vignettes.
Photographs are regularly rejected for not being “Toiletpaper enough”, with Cattelan likening the creation process to distilling perfume. He elaborates, “It’s not about one particular style or time frame; what makes them Toiletpaper is a special twist. An uncanny ambiguity.” Discussing the improvisational nature of Toiletpaper, set-designer Natella muses, “Once I have an idea in mind, I design the sets and I have my team research the objects and props. It’s a collaborative process and I love to go on set and improvise.” Toiletpaper’s aesthetic and visual content forces viewers to confront the reality of our disposable cultures.