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Debating over Toilet Paper

We chat to photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari about his magazine collaboration with Maurizio Cattelan

A knife, a heart and an iron horseshoe are nailed on a wall surrounded by blood stains; a woman’s finger points at something on an aqua green surface, the bright red painted nail on her index finger perfectly sectioned off in tiny half moons neatly arranged on the table. These are not nightmarish or surreal visions, but images created by artist Maurizio Cattelan and photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari for the second issue of Toilet Paper.

The magazine was recently launched in Milan during an evening hosted by Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, a non-profit organisation promoting the diffusion of contemporary art and an open platform for modern artists. Toilet Paper is currently on a brief tour to reach out to readers willing to be entertained, shocked, disturbed and bemused by Cattelan and Ferrari’s works. 

Dazed Digital: Why did you start Toilet Paper?
Pierpaolo Ferrari: We felt like experimenting with images and with a printed magazine after Maurizio’s Permanent Food, a project that somehow represented the conclusion of a cycle. We stole the ideas and moods for these images from different fields, including art, film, fashion, advertising and news. Time dilation characterises all these images since something is on the brink of happening in each of them. Yet you could also interpret them from a Freudian point of view: while celebrating the weaknesses of human beings, these images also prompt you to carry out a self-analysis.

DD: Who is the protagonist of your images?
Pierpaolo Ferrari: Maurizio and I tend to see the magazine readers as the main protagonists of our images because each picture reflects their experience, each photograph can be interpreted in different ways and each engages the viewer in an intimate dialogue.

DD: As a photographer you work in different fields, from advertising to cinema and fashion, what does Toilet Paper represent for you?
Pierpaolo Ferrari: Working on Toilet Paper is a form of reaction for me, an opportunity to face my personal nemeses and a way to interpret the world with my own eyes and ideas. I’m not interested in how people look at the magazine from a critical point of view, but I’m very interested in the reactions the images cause in the viewers.

DD: Can you tell us more about the creative process behind the magazine? 
Pierpaolo Ferrari: Maurizio and I often meet on Skype since he’s based in New York and I’m based in Milan. Anything can happen while we work on the new issue and anything inspires us, even sitting in a café and seeing something that catches our imagination. The team behind Toilet Paper is very united and follows the creative project from the beginning of the new issue until the end. We usually produce the new issue very quickly, but the background work is very intense.

The production process behind an image can be quite violent actually since we often attack an image and destroy it, analysing it from different points of view. If we’re completely happy with it the image gets in the magazine. As a consequence each picture that ends up in the magazine becomes a favourite one because it has resisted our attacks.

DD: Do you ever quarrel with Maurizio over the images?
Pierpaolo Ferrari: All the images are somehow a good reason for a quarrel, a discussion or a debate! Every time a new issue is produced Maurizio says: “We have overcome another crisis!” I guess this collaboration feels a bit like being in a marriage, but it’s always great to know that we are sharing this artistic burden together!

DD: You’re also the co-founder of art magazine Le Dictateur with Federico Pepe: in your opinion, what will happen in future to printed magazines?
Pierpaolo Ferrari: The digital world offers us all a series of advantages, yet at the same time it doesn’t imply an in-depth research but focuses on quick execution. I don’t think printed magazines will ever be replaced, but I also think that, if you decide to produce a printed magazine, you must create a quality product supported by something special like an artistic and cultural project. In the case of Toilet Paper, we consider it also as a “social leveler” since it shifts the attention to the power of the image erasing the demagogy of the written word.

DD: This Autumn Maurizio Cattelan will have a major exhibition at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, will it feature any images from Toilet Paper?
Pierpaolo Ferrari: Top Secret!

Toilet Paper is published by the Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art. The magazine can be purchased from Artbook and Les presses du réel

Concept and photographs by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari