In her efforts to go unnoticed and not disturb her fellow passengers, Katchadourian frequently retreats to the lavatory, the only private spot on the plane. There, she creates the most famous works in the series, Flemish-style self-portraits composed “using everything in the bathroom except for toilet paper.” Despite their low-key effect, Katchadourian insists that the pictures are not selfies. Rather, they’re abstracted from their subject; liminal portals to another time and space—17th-century Holland, perhaps—created with mundane materials used un-mysteriously.
Still, in our conversation, Katchadourian returned to the idea of disturbing the flight attendants or her neighbors, and of maintaining the ordered balance of the plane in flight. She’s especially conscious of the time she takes in the bathroom, and attributes the inconspicuousness of her actions to her identity.
“There’s a way I get away with doing this project because I’m a white woman,” she said. “If you’re a Middle Eastern–looking man like my husband and you went into the bathroom for 15 minutes, there would be a problem.”