Exhibitions, Features, Photobooks

Arrested Development in Thomas Mailaender’s Man Cave

All images from the series Gone Fishing © Thomas Mailaender, courtesy Roman Road gallery

Inspiration for Thomas Mailaender’s new photobook and exhibition Gone Fishing came from finding himself on the cusp of fatherhood, confronted by obligations of an adult kind, the cult artist tells BJP.

Using his friends’ ribbing as a catalyst, the French multimedia artist’s exhibition at London’s Roman Road gallery, and contribution to a group show at The Tate Modern, sees him imagine a correspondence with his homebound, pregnant wife as he travels the world.

Through a compilation of self-potraits and fictitious letters, Mailaender uses his trip – climbing mountains, deep-sea fishing, feedings animals – to meditate on his new responsibilities; fatherhood and family life, masculinity after boyhood.

The work consists of a series of sham, photoshopped images of himself; a photomontage of holiday snaps collected from hours of trawling the internet.

Thomas Mailaender, An Other Summit #16, 2010. Printed 2015. Lambda print, 11 x 15 cm (32 x 23 cm with frame), edition of 3 plus 1AP. (c) Thomas Mailaender

His face, superimposed onto gap year student mash-ups, are accompanied with formal letters to his wife back home.

“My love, Another mountain-top on the counter!” he writes in one, alongside an image of him at the pinnacle of a snowy mountain. “You should have seen me lost in the clouds! What bliss! And feeling like the tallest man in the world! I love you both, Thomas”.

Mailaender is usually absent from his iconoclastic projects, making Gone Fishing feel a little less anarchic than his previous work, more personal in tone.

We meet at the Tate Modern as he put the finishing touches to his exhibit. Mailaender insists this series doesn’t mark a shift towards him being more present in his work – it’s just easier, he points out, for the artist to sometimes be the subject.

Thomas Mailaender, Mako Shark #1, 2010. Printed 2015. Lambda print, 14.7 x 10 cm (32 x 23 cm with frame), edition of 3 plus 1AP. (c) Thomas Mailaender

“It comes at the beginning from my own story,” he says. “But it’s more universal, something happened and I had to expand on that.

Mailaender also sees the series as “a way to mock basic things that could happen to you.

“Instead of taking life very seriously, I prefer to crush it,” he says.