Art duo Mazaccio & Drowilal use collage to deconstruct popular culture

Fusing internet-found imagery with an irreverent use of paint and tape, the French artists tackle society’s issues with image abundance and take down the ‘dreams’ perpetuated by media.

Date
21 August 2020
Reading Time
4 minute read

The artwork of Mazaccio & Drowilal takes internet fodder as its fuel, and in the process asks us to look twice. Whether it’s IRL still lifes of desktop icons, dogs staring wistfully into sunsets, or celebrity snapshots defaced with paint and tape, the duo’s subject matter is universally familiar to anyone who’s found themselves in a thumb scroll wormhole, and that’s exactly the point. “We aim to deal with the issue of image abundance that is generating our vision of the world,” explains Robert Drowilal, one half of the studio with Elise. “We try to analyse attraction processes and explore how cultural industries create dreams and identities by using entertainment and the art of storytelling.”

Aptly, Robert describes both their upbringings in the 90s as fairly internet obsessed. They were both born in the late 80s in the rural south of France countryside, which Drowilal describes as “cultural deserts… there were no museums, the theatre only played three movies… we were starving for cultural content”. So when home internet access arrived in the mid 90s, “it was insane,” he recounts of an era spent downloading every movie, game, record and comic he could manage. “It was a bit brainwashing, because I was on a drip of American soft power”. Now, his and Elise’s work is an “enterprise of deconstruction” of those influences, he says.

The two met in 2006 and began collaborating in 2009 in Paris, sharing an interest for art and photo books, and hence starting out with the vision of combining and editing their own photographs, forgoing individual authorship. This soon expanded to using images taken by others. “In this sense, our medium became not so much photography as the image itself,” says Robert. They published several books before being invited to exhibit their collaborative artworks, and have since practiced as a partnership.

Collage seemed “obvious” as a cooperative format, and has become the cornerstone of Mazaccio & Drowilal’s output. The past decade has seen several collage series including Paparazzi, showing cut-outs of celebrities doing the same activity, for example taking a selfie; Vanitas, still lifes made of desktop icons, The Dog’s Best Friend, showing dogs gazing at sunsets, and Ninny, nudist on paper towels, engaged in mundane activities. By collecting and combining these images, a new interplay emerges between, and they suddenly seem all the more ludicrous.

The duo’s most recent series is a set of diptyphs titled Iconography, which combines found imagery that you might not expect to see paired, but has a distinct similarity, paying special attention to “thematics of the male gaze, eroticism, L.O.L, icons, celebrities and child actors, and to the theme of the double (twins, wax double, persona, public, avatar).”

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Mazaccio & Drowilal: Iconology, CR7 1923 (copyright Mazaccio & Drowilal 2020)

Many show celebrities, for example the Williams sisters, Ronaldo and his waxwork counterpart, Tobey Maguire and Leonardo Di Caprio as child stars bowling together, or Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone side-by-side in hospital beds. These are mirrored by all types of imagery, spanning classic and contemporary artwork, fashion and advertising shots, cartoons, political imagery, stock imagery, internet memes and video game screenshots, to comedic and provocative effect. The process of finding and pairing the images has taken a number of years, from browsing and searching, to printing them out “to take them away from their original context,” then trying to find pairs and “collisions”. The curated diptychs are printed on a single, one-metre-high sheet, stapled onto wood, wrapped in plastic film and “enhanced” irreverently with spray paint and Mazaccio & Drowilal branded tape.

“For us the gesture of packaging induces a parallel between circulation of goods and circulation of images in our globalised era,” explains Robert. “The use of this kind of tape is also blurring the difference between artist's signature and corporate identity. For a while we’ve wanted to emancipate from the framing standards and convention in photography because it's too expensive and heavy... and boring.

So for us it's a shift from image-making to picture-making, and the objecthood (materiality) is underlining the tension that can exist between the flatness of the image and the physicality of its display.

“At the same time, it is questioning images and our relationship to them – How do images circulate across media? How do they affect us emotionally and intellectually? How do they acquire meaning and power? And how they communicate as signs and symbols?”

Mazaccio & Drowilal recently had a solo show, Par amour du goût, at Les Ateliers Vortex, Dijon, France, and are currently involved in group show Skɪz(ə)m at Plato in Ostrava, Czech Republic, until 30 August. The duo is also currently working on a new edition of its Paparazzi book with RVB Books, featuring unreleased collages and more “surprises,” due out later this year.

GalleryMazaccio & Drowilal

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Iconology, Venus and Serena XL (copyright Mazaccio & Drowilal 2020)

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Iconology, The Life of Pablo XL (copyright Mazaccio & Drowilal 2020)

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Iconology, Bill, Monica and Chloe (copyright Mazaccio & Drowilal 2018)

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Iconology, Gunilla and Donatello (copyright Mazaccio & Drowilal 2018)

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Iconology, Tu serai triste (copyright Mazaccio & Drowilal 2019)

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Studio view, Villefranche de Rouergue, Occitanie, France (copyright Mazaccio & Drowilal 2020)

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Skɪz(ə)m exhibition view (copyright Martin Polak, 2020)

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Vanitas, Still life with soft cursor (copyright Mazaccio & Drowilal 2017)

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Vanitas, Still life with pink pin (copyright Mazaccio & Drowilal 2013)

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The Dog's Best Friend, She's Out of My Life (copyright Mazaccio & Drowilal 2013)

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Ninny, Ninny Beach (copyright Mazaccio & Drowilal 2013)

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Paparazzi, Taking selfies (copyright Mazaccio & Drowilal 2020)

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Mazaccio & Drowilal: Iconology, Tobey and Leo (copyright Mazaccio & Drowilal 2018)

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

Jenny joined the editorial team as It’s Nice That’s first news editor in April 2016. Having studied 3D Design, she has spent the last ten years working in design journalism. Contact her with news stories relating to the creative industries on news@itsnicethat.com.

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