On Toilets

On Toilets

To be reading this writing is also to be looking at the door to the toilet.

The location of writing affects how that writing is read.

The conventional place for text in the gallery is on the wall. The location of text that might conventionally be expected to be on a wall, on a door, is a deliberate act: it is something for which one needs to account.

A door is not a wall. It invites both being touched and being moved. A door allows (potentially) access to what is behind it in a way that a wall does not.

The artwork attached to the door is liable to be both touched and moved.

The door is, amongst other things, an invitation to leave: to be somewhere else. It is, perhaps, potentially a route of escape.

The toilets do not (under usual circumstances) offer a way out of the building.

The toilets are, however, a conventional place of escape. In drama, it is often through the toilet window that an illicit exit is made.

The need for the toilet is also an excuse to leave a conversation.

The toilet can be a refuge.

A toilet is unlike any other room. It is dedicated to a fairly narrow range of bodily functions.

The toilet is a room in which the body asserts itself, where it is difficult to ignore. One usually goes to the toilet because of the body’s prompting and not, so to speak, out of desire.

In the toilet one emphatically has a body (in a way that is not generally true of the gallery space or conventional conditions for encountering art).

The toilet is also a place explicitly of desire. It is a place of potential illicit liaisons, such as sexual encounters and narcotic transactions.

The toilet is somewhere to escape from surveillance: somewhere to be not seen. It is as if the needs of the body are beyond sight: as if indulging in the body is itself an escape from being seen and regulated.

Writing on the door to the toilets is neither quite inside nor outside the toilets.

It is usual for writing to appear inside toilets.

The writing inside toilet cubicles is typically obscene: sexual and scatological.

It is as though the functioning body has become apparent, or left its mark, in the writing: as though, perhaps, the writing was written by a body and not a mind.

To display writing on the toilet door is to invite interruptions.

Reading is liable to be interrupted by the door being used. Persons entering or leaving the toilet are liable to obscure the text and the door opening and closing is also liable to make the text unreadable.

The writing also covers over the signs to the ladies and gents. A reader may be interrupted by questions as to which door leads to which toilet.

This text is available inside the toilets (on sheets to take away). Inside each toilet is the writing on its respective door.

To obtain the writing on both doors requires a negotiation between genders.

Displaying this text in a former pub is not the same as displaying the same text in a gallery (or elsewhere).

The architectural traditions and assumptions about pubs and galleries are different and lead to differing types of spaces.

A toilet is more likely to be needed and used in a pub than in a gallery because of the respective activities that happen in these distinct buildings.

Toilets have a different position in a pub than a gallery: in general they are more visible and more accessible.

Nowadays, in one way or another, all art is related to the space in which it is displayed. To ignore this relationship is to misperceive and misrepresent the conditions of possibility for contemporary art.

The toilets are a kind of readymade.

Duchamp’s urinal was a readymade that was taken out, metaphorically, of the toilet and relocated in the gallery. One way to think of Fountain might be as an attempt to disrupt the smooth functioning of the aesthetic gaze.

To implicate the existing toilets of a gallery in an artwork is, amongst other things, to draw attention to the architectural margins of the gallery. That is to say, the toilets are not (usually) considered part of the space of display of the gallery. They are not something to look at (nor to be looked into).

The toilets, qua readymade, do not follow the Duchampian criteria of objects that provoke complete visual indifference. The toilets are not presented as objects to be looked at.

The toilets are a reminder of things that are conventionally ignored: a way to bring into consideration that which is not normally left out.

There are times when a toilet is more interesting than an artwork.