Mazaccio & Drowilal: Iconology

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The French duo’s work combines found images from the internet, which are defaced with paint, plastic and tape to “show how mass media is shaping dreams and identities”

Iconology refers to the study of visual imagery, symbolism, and interpretation. It is also the title of the duo Mazaccio & Drowilal’s playful series of diptychs, in which found images from the internet are defaced with paint, plastic and tape to “show an interplay between the photographs, and how mass media is shaping dreams and identities”.

Elise Mazac and Robert Drowilal have been working as a collaborative duo since 2009 when they began creating self-published photobooks. “The idea was to make edits, or snapshots, by collaborating and denying the concept of image authorship,” explains Drowilal, who speaks on behalf of himself and Mazac. “We have always approached photography as a duo, both in the taking of photographs and in the process of selecting images. All our collaborations are a kind of collage in some way.”

Working with found photography and collage, their work seeks to deconstruct visual culture, commenting on mass media, but also the male gaze both historically and in the present day. In 2013, Mazaccio & Drowilal were awarded the BMW Residency, and the following year, they exhibited their work at Les Rencontres d’Arles.

Iconology is part of their ongoing interest in appropriation, taking images out of their original context and trying to make new meaning out of them. This is largely inspired by writers of the 1960s including Roland Barthes, and literary devices such as ‘intertextuality’: the shaping of one text’s meaning by another text. “We are applying this concept to visual art, that is why we use ready made images and employing them as a way to create something new,” says Drowilal.

The images are drawn from social networks such as Instagram and Tumblr, as well as news sources, and international search engines such as Baidu or Yandex. The duo work with a wide range of images, from advertising and stock imagery, to cartoons and internet memes. “For us, the work of art is part of this huge tank of images that are shaping the imaginary,” says Drowilal. “ It’s all about deconstruction and parallels.”

Iconology by Mazaccio & Drowilal is on show until 25 April at Ateliers Vortex, Dijon, France. Since publication, the gallery has announced its closure due to coronavirus, (COVID-19). Please follow the gallery’s Instagram account for the latest updates.

Marigold Warner

Deputy Editor

Marigold Warner worked as an editor at BJP between 2018 and 2023. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Elephant, Gal-dem, The Face, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.