Philippe Chauveau Foreign Bodies
By Dave Crossley
Galerie Sequier, 10 rue Sequier Philippe Chauveau has made a series of photographs of a person entirely wrapped in toilet paper, posed in exotic settings in North Africa. The pictures are beautifully made and presented, so the first reaction is not that they are stupid, although that is the second reaction, which turns out to be wrong. These pictures are proof that images can have their own lives, and that they continue to do their work long after they've been dismissed.
Even though it is patently dear what the images are of, they become mysterious, and they impart a sense of gladness, somehow, that Chauveau has done this job, and that the ancient columns and temples have enjoyed his presence and given to his paper-clad figure a gift of time, a sort of ribbon between the past and the present that didn't exist before Chauveau made his journey.
The photographs, made in 1983-1984, were shot in places with names like Touna El-Djebel, Louxor, Ramasseum, Magawish, Nephtys, and Deir El-Bahri. Chauveau traveled with a huge garbage bag to carry his toilet paper, which he bought wherever he was. It took two or more rolls to do a wrap job and he has no idea how many rolls he used. He employed different colors of toilet paper to achieve different tones in the black and white photographs. Sometimes, he says, there was too much sweat, and he couldn't shoot, even in the evenings.
Mac Avoy, writing in the catalog for the exhibition, says of the photographs, "his masks scream in silence, on a background of absence, forever." I don't think they scream at all. They are a little like the monolith in 2001 and 20I0, just being there, neutral. It is as if they have achieved synchronicity with the movement of these sacred grounds through time and space.