I first came across French art prankster
It comprised a makeshift wooden building where funny or grotesque photographs were displayed, while real live chickens wandered around, pecking at the seed-strewn ground, and occasionally pausing to peruse an image. It was part funny and part disturbing – perhaps a comment on the absurdity or collective idiocy of the traditional art gallery experience?
You can see for yourself when Chicken Show comes to
Mailaender uses humour as provocation, making work that reveals the absurdity of the everyday and pokes fun at the pretensions of the art-photography world. He delights in hoaxes, pranks, elaborate and sometimes wilfully amateurish charades. On his website, the "About" section begins: "A recently deceased famous French critic once compared
He says that he spends the first hour of each working day reading for inspiration. "I mostly go for do-it-yourself books like the great How To Become A Professional Stuntman In One Week that I just finished. I am also a big reader of stuff like the Guinness books, erotic magazines, hunting or fishing manuals. After this kind of brain food I usually feel like I could be the king of the world and that's the good moment for me to really start working."
Mailaender's most humorous series often feature himself. Last year, he self-published Gone Fishing, which "tells the modern epic of a young man feeling his responsibility as a father by going on holidays with his buddies." (Download it here).
It mixes staged photos of himself (largely smiling proudly while holding various freshly caught fish) with apologetic, self-pitying letters to his fictitious wife – "Dear Marion, I don't think this is going to change anything and it is not going to help you forgive me easily, but, guess what? I caught today a beautiful carp! I love you my dear. I can't stop thinking of you and the baby." In the final photograph, he poses dolefully with a kissing dolphin. As a comment on male commitment phobia, Gone Fishing is pretty acute. It's also hilariously, self-mockingly funny.
For an earlier project, Sponsoring, he Photoshopped himself into a series of promotional images of people being presented with giant cheques. For Extreme Tourism, he collaborated with
Here and there, his work has a strange sadness, too. His photographs of Algerian cars, their roofs piled high with their owner's belongings or newly acquired possessions, look like readymades, but hint at other themes – transience, homelessness, survival. They have been acquired by the
In a recent exhibition at
Although it was not an elaborate hoax, as Mailaender followers might have expected, the exhibition was a homage to a bunch of like-minded souls that pursued their anarchic hobby for the hell of it. Mailaender shrouded the gallery space in darkness and made climbing holds around and above the pictures so more adventurous visitors could scale the gallery walls. Every
• Chicken Show is at
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