Come “Run As Slow As You Can” At This Hyper-Immersive TOILETPAPER Exhibit In Mumbai

  • 31 Jul '23
  • 12:31 pm by Beverly Pereira

Deep inside the belly of this behemoth show, a sense of familiarity lurks amid the surrealness of it all. The seemingly inane becomes utterly relatable; it’s almost like being in the comfort of home now. A life-size crocodile here, a lap pool filled with 10,000 bananas there—it’s ludicrous, all right. Yet, there’s a semblance of rationality in the absurdity of it all. Or perhaps that’s what our minds would like us to believe. We have very mindfully journeyed to an exceedingly maximalist apartment, the third ‘chapter’ of Run As Slow As You Can. The immersive exhibit by TOILETPAPER is spread across four floors of the Art House at the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre, Mumbai, and runs through October 22, 2023.

Two floors down, highly surreal imagery towers at every turn. A laugh can be heard out of nowhere. Walls and ceilings are plastered in recurring imagery of saucy spaghetti and blow-ups of curiously cool visuals like a woman with a face full of pearls. We are in a labyrinth enveloped by the conceptual work of contemporary artist Maurizio Cattelan and photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari of the renowned Italian creative studio TOILETPAPER. The vernacular of TOILETPAPER’s founders is instantly recognisable; it is downright provocative, oversaturated, witty, playful and absurd.

Aside from Cattelan and Ferrari, it takes the complex orchestration of people to sublimate the surreal from the ordinary. Their wildly popular image-only artists’ magazine TOILETPAPER is one that the world has come to love. Founded in 2010, the creative studio’s practice also includes creative direction for multimedia advertising campaigns; product design for brands like Seletti; a capsule fashion collection for Longchamp; artistic campaigns for commercial brands like MAC Cosmetics; and several other publishing products.

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TOILETPAPER blends commercial photography with a surrealist approach. Image Credit: NMACC

At the Mumbai show, TOILETPAPER’s largest immersive exhibit to date, the TOILETPAPER universe is brought to life from scratch with a multitude of hyper-immersive worlds in tow. “The duo use photography, design and architecture as tools to bring into question the homes we inhabit, the objects we own, and the people that surround us. As the title suggests, the exhibition is both disorienting and seemingly nonsensical, an intentional nod to the themes that sit at the epicentre of TOILETPAPER’s practice,” a note from the NMACC states.

The exhibit spans four chapters across four floors that question the very idea of existence and engagement in an overdosed contemporary society or, simply put, a world besieged by visual stimuli. Led by creative director Mafalda Millies, curator Roya Sachs and executive producer Elizabeth Edelman of creative house TRIADIC, with studios in NYC, London and Vienna, the collaboration is tremendous and a meeting of some of the finest creative minds of our times.

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Amid the nostalgia of vintage floral walls, household utilities stripped off their function become the building blocks of TOILETPAPER’s visionary universe. Image Credit: NMACC

We were so excited when TOILETPAPER accepted the invitation to come and do this exhibition because they are artists that really tailor to a very broad and diverse audience, and also people of every age. So this is a show that’s massive, it’s playful, it’s fun but it’s got a lot of twists and surprises along the way,” Sachs was captured as saying.

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The second chapter “Is There Room in The Sky?” delves into the depths of the subconscious. Image Credit: NMACC

Fresh out of the maze that is the first chapter “Take a Left, Right?,” one sets foot in the clouds at the second chapter of the show, “Is There Room in the Sky?”. In this mirrored, illusioned dreamscape, it feels bizarre and strangely beautiful all at the same time as one is enticed to walk on clouds with their head in the sky alongside gigantic floating sculptures. 

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The imagery-laden show is packed with a delicious dose of irony. Image Credit: NMACC

An uncannily familiar sense of nostalgia creeps in by the time one has navigated the third chapter “A House Is a Building That People Live In.” Here, we are introduced to household utilities—some with no function, others rife with the reality of it all. Tropical-themed walls and leopard-print floors become larger-than-life backdrops for any and every household product, appliance, furniture that one can think of.

In all its eclecticism, hedonism and maximalism, is this really the ideal home? Opening the pastel door of a retro refrigerator brings us face to face with our fear-based existence, and we soon discover that the home has no roof.

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Sometimes disorienting, at times pleasurable, the TOILETPAPER show surprises at every turn. Image Credit: NMACC

Further in the “home,” a cotton candy pink tiled bathroom becomes the touchpoint for an assortment of desirable products by TOILETPAPER Beauty, while a standalone bathtub brimming with pink pills is a nod to the macabre.

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Oversaturated visuals, hyperreal photography and auditory elements weave a perfectly surreal narrative. Image Credit: NMACC

The show is colossal in its evident scale. Then, there’s the entire journey through the depths of the exhibit which can be immensely gratifying to the magnitude of being mystifying and revealing in equal measure. “TOILETPAPER is inspired by Surrealism, Dadaism. The show investigates our hyper consumption of imagery and is an absolute feast for the eyes,” adds Millies. With VR sets and other little technological touches, the exhibit takes the audience that much deeper into the surreal world of TOILETPAPER.

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The “Control Room” is a repository of iconic works by TOILETPAPER. Image Credit: NMACC

Finally, the sensory journey culminates at the uppermost level of NMACC’s Art House. “The Control Room,” a stark monochromatic red room instantaneously decompresses the senses. The last strains of hyper-stimulation are all but drowned out as the final chapter of Run As Slow As You Can comes as a breather. This section highlights the craft and inspiration of Cattelan and Ferrari through the display of iconic images, objects and works from the studio’s Milan headquarters.

Run As Slow As You Can opened on July 22 and will remain on view through October 22, 2023 at the Art House—the dedicated visual arts space at the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC), Mumbai. Entry is free for art students, children below the age of 7, and senior citizens.