Autopsy : Bruno Mouron & Pascal Roustain
Yellowkorner is pleased to host the exhibition of Bruno Mouron et de Pascal Rostain, two photographers commonly considered “paparazzi”, who over the past thirty years have become the contemporary anthropologists of stars’ consumer waste or consumerism, but also of globalisation with its most outrageous inequalities.
This long-term project took many years to find the most irreproachable legitimacy beyond their first publications in Paris Match. Fortunately, mentalities have evolved since then and the relevancy of their message is now the most inarguably contemporary, both artistically and politically. Their “still lifes” of vintage advertisements and brands elegantly arranged against a velvet background give these contemporary “herbariums” their full importance. They can also be considered individual or collective portraits of their owner-depositaries… through their garbage.
Their concept began in 1988 with Serge Gainsbourg’s trashcan, Rue de Verneuil, like a thumbing of the nose to “the man with a cabbage head” that became an unintentional caricature: cigarette butts, old bottles, letters, and newspapers of all kinds.
This was just the beginning of what was to become an incessant professional inquiry, first in Paris and that would later take them from Hollywood to Moscow, from Reagan to the poor of Malawi, from Madonna to Jack Nicholson; on an uncompromising mission that nonetheless avoided degrading intrusion as much as it did the control of a higher authority or of the presumed waste-creators. Scientific samples that are also ethical in the sense that they respect the individual, the large formats by Mouron et Rostain are grand frescoes of the history of our civilisation, exposed in the stomach if not in the temple of consumerism.
With their large-format images, words are superfluous since the eloquence of the images is meticulously constructed thanks to the quality of the print, the mastery of the organisation and composition, to their perfect knowledge of the vocabulary of the design and packaging, to the rigour of the scientific exposé and the neutral lighting. A sure-fire hit: masters of communication from the offices of the biggest marketing agencies, their message hits all targets with all the precision of an elite shooter.
THEIR EXHIBITIONS ACROSS THE GLOBE
They fossick through the trashcans of celebrities to photograph waste and packaging, represented to scale in their prints measuring between 1.80 m and 2.40 m, then exhibited on the picture rails in museums across the globe, from Moscow to Singapore, to Paris. They are the most environmentally friendly of pop artists and the most formidable whistleblowers. In this way, they have brought “Paparazzism” up to date with brio and kicked the moralisers to the kerb.
This “work in progress” has already been shown at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie de Paris in 2007 and the Centre Pompidou Metz in 2014 under the generic title "Trash", as well as at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, New York, Moscow, Singapore, Taiwan, and Geneva. Their work represented France at the most recent World Expo in Milan, in 2015.
Thirty years after the doorway of the “Beau Serge” in the neighbourhood, it is once again in mythical Saint-Germain that we find Bruno Mouron et de Pascal Rostain.
INTERVIEW WITH PASCAL ROSTAIN
After exhibiting your photos at the MEP in Paris, the Centre Pompidou Metz and the World Expo in Milan, you are presenting the exhibition Autopsie at YellowKorner. Tell us about the reasons for this choice.
Pascal Roustain : YellowKorner has been a leading player in photography for around twenty years, after exhibitions in New York, Paris, Singapore, Taiwan, Moscow, Geneva, Frankfurt, and Milan, it seemed logical and even natural for us to approach the YK network, with its 140 galleries worldwide.
The word Paparazzi comes from the contraction of “papatacchi” meaning little mosquito and “razzi”, camera flashes. This word was invented for Frederico Fellini’s film La Dolce Vita in which a photographer with dubious methods is nicknamed Paparazzi. How do you perceive this term today?
P.R : The mot paparazzi is really old hat today! We started at a time when we belonged to the environment of celebrities, and they were really legitimate, in the seventies, we were photographing Grace Kelly, Brigitte Bardot, Jacqueline Kennedy, Orson Welles, Romy Schneider, Richard Burton and Liz Taylor… So, yes, the period has really changed! And the new celebrities, the stars of real TV or footballers, can they really be considered stars?
You like to cite Pierre Lazareff who used to say, “If you can’t get through the door, use the window!” Tell us about your methods for getting hold of the trashcans of celebrities in France and in Los Angeles.
P.R : For this work of harvesting trashcans, begun 30 years ago, our method is quite simple: we gather the waste from one week’s consumption a few hours before the garbage collectors arrive.
This series of photographs of trashcans of celebrities gives rise to an endless concept. What are the next steps?
P.R : The next steps: we harvested trash from the sea, on a Breton beach after a high tide, the result in terms of pollution is edifying. We wanted to sort through God’s trash! By doing the Pope’s trashcan in Castel Gondolfo (the Pope’s summer residence) but there were too many residents, so we collected those of a priest, an imam, and a rabbi. Conclusion: the name of God today is Coca-Cola, since they all drink it, and we learned on this occasion that the great Rabbi of New York had been invited in 1973 to Atlanta by the firm, not for the recipe but for the ingredients, to see if they were kosher! In the future, if we continue, obviously we’ll keep up with the celebrities, but also countries or artists (we just collected David Hockney’s trash), along with a lot of other surprises… but those are secret!
From paparazzi, to artists or investigative journalists, your qualifications are multifarious. Who do you consider yourself to be today?
P.R : We’re still journalists! Artists, possibly, but possibly sociologists or even rudologists.
At any rate, we are definitely witnesses of our era, of our consumerist society (in excess!) and possibly, also, analysts of overconsumption! And the work that remains to be done for our planet in order to consume better, sort better, and try to reduce the 4 000 billion tons of waste that the earth produces each year, only a quarter of which is recycled!
This operation is about two different subjects: celebrities and our consumerist society.
Here are a few key figures about pollution in the world:
- A billion non-recyclable straws discarded each day;
- 89 billion plastic bottles sold;
- 10.1 tonnes of plastic per second;
- Just 26% of plastic packaging is recycled;
- 1.5 million animals killed by plastic each year;
- 99% of marine animals will have ingested plastic by 2050;
- 11 000 micro particles of plastic in the body.
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