Nina Khatchadourian–Seat Assignment: Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style

Ever do it Flemish Style in an airplane restroom? Nina Katchadourian has, and she wants to show you a few photos of it…

Wednesday is Illusion Day, and we feature a contemporary illusion, or a variation on a classic illusion.

This week’s pick is the series “Seat Assignment: Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style“, by artist Nina Katchadourian. As a prominent member of the not-so-well-known Illusory Mile High Club, she never gets bored on a long flight.

While in the lavatory on a domestic flight in March 2010, I spontaneously put a tissue paper toilet cover seat cover over my head and took a picture in the mirror using my cellphone. The image evoked 15th-century Flemish portraiture. I decided to add more images made in this mode and planned to take advantage of a long-haul flight from San Francisco to Auckland, guessing that there were likely to be long periods of time when no one was using the lavatory on the 14-hour flight. I made several forays to the bathroom from my aisle seat, and by the time we landed I had a large group of new photographs entitled Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style. I was wearing a thin black scarf that I sometimes hung up on the wall behind me to create the deep black ground that is typical of these portraits. There is no special illumination in use other than the lavatory’s own lights and all the images are shot hand-held with the camera phone. At the Dunedin Public Art gallery, the photos were framed in faux-historical frames and hung on a deep red wall reminiscent of the painting galleries in museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. – Nina Katchadourian

I just love to think about Katchadourian going back and forth between her seat and the lavatory, armed with paper cups, neck pillows, sleep mask, and other such assorted items. I’m hard pressed to choose, but I think the best portrait is the one with the bunches of paper towels around her neck (below).  What’s your favorite?

-Susana Martinez-Conde