[Dixielandjazz] See-thru loo

John Farrell stridepiano at tesco.net
Thu Dec 25 00:30:27 PST 2003

I decline to comment on bog standard reportage.

John Farrell

----- Original Message -----
From: "Stephen Barbone" <barbonestreet at earthlink.net>
To: "Dixieland Jazz Mailing List" <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Tuesday, December 23, 2003 3:02 PM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Yes, but is it art? - Redux

> NOT OKOM, but a funny read with MANY parallels. If you get through it,
> you mind will be changed about that traditional British reserve, Suggest
> John Farrell, Dingo, Pat Ladd, Andy Ling, et al check this out and give
> us a report on this artistic experience. ;-)
> Cheers,
> Steve Barbone
> December 23, 2003 - Reprinted in The NY Times
> LONDON JOURNAL  Blushing While You're Flushing, and All for Art's Sake
>      LONDON, Dec. 22 - "Is this the toilet? I've been hearing about it,"
> the young man with the half-smoked cigarette said eagerly, bounding down
> the street. But when he got to the actual bathroom - encased in a
> one-way mirror, so that the people inside can see out, but the people
> outside cannot see in - he had a sudden, crippling attack of nerves.
> "Not me!" he announced with unexpected vehemence, as if an invisible
> force was preparing to lasso him and drag him through the bathroom door.
> A deep red blush began to crawl across his face. "I'm not embarrassed,"
> he said. "It's just not my sort of thing." Then he scurried away.
> It has been in place for only a few weeks, but "Don't Miss a Sec.," a
> contemporary art installation that is in essence a mirrored outhouse on
> a construction site near the Thames, has been raising heated, even
> violent emotions. While it may provide a fine opportunity to indulge in
> voyeurism and exhibitionism at the same time - like going to the
> bathroom in the bushes, if the bushes were in the middle of the street -
> in reality the experience is proving prohibitively unnerving to some.
> "I'd worry that there's an act of subterfuge," said Martin Dukes, who
> found that he was, frankly, too scared to go into the bathroom. "You
> flush the loo and suddenly the mirror is reversed, and everyone can see
> in." He decided against it.
> Matthew Southwell, another passer-by, called the toilet "disturbing."
> Trying to explain the public's squeamishness, he suggested that it had
> to do with what he called "British reticence about toilet behavior," a
> trait that is neatly undercut, he added, by the country's robust
> attitude toward the humorous implications of the bathroom.
> "Well, it's a weird split personality thing," Mr. Southwell said. "You
> don't want anyone to know you are going to the toilet, but you crack
> jokes about it all the time."
> As conceived by the artist, Monica Bonvicini, the piece was not meant to
> be a Rorschach test for people's attitudes toward toilets, but a comment
> on the contemporary art scene as well as a way "to subvert the
> hierarchical nature of modernist architecture," said Matt Watkins, the
> creative director of Broadway Projects, the sponsor of "Don't Miss a
> Sec."
> The title refers to the chattering and gossiping that goes on at art
> openings. Ms. Bonvicini imagined what it would be like to be able to use
> the bathroom during an opening, while not having to miss out on
> anything. To further her vision, she constructed a rectangular box whose
> walls are the sort of thick mirrored glass used on limousines or in
> police interview rooms.
> Inside, Ms. Bonvicini's piece has a simple prison-issue toilet and sink
> that, when used, inspire a strangely peaceful notion that you are
> separate from the world, but part of it, too. With your pants off.
> "When you use it, it seems like you're sitting in the open air," said
> Vicky Thornton, the project architect for the huge construction site at
> the Chelsea College of Art, where the bathroom has been placed. She
> found the experience unexpectedly liberating. "I didn't feel like I was
> exhibiting myself, but I felt like that's what it would be like if you
> didn't have to wear any clothes," she said.
> In the realm of the weird, the toilet is at the normal end of the
> spectrum in this racy city.
> The Turner Prize, given to a contemporary artist each year by the Tate
> Britain (the gallery is around the corner from the toilet), was earlier
> this month awarded to Grayson Perry, a transvestite sculptor whose vases
> depict bestiality and child abuse and whose photograph while accepting
> the award - in a frilly, Raggedy-Ann style dress and thick makeup,
> standing next to his proud wife and son - appeared on most front pages
> the next day. Last week, The Times published a long article about two
> performance artists who put on various costumes (businessman, commando)
> and crawl along the street in central London.
> In this context, there is nothing radical about the one-way-mirrored
> toilet, except for the roiling emotions it provokes.
> Toilets are unquestionably a complicated issue for the British, starting
> with how to describe them. Though such distinctions are falling away,
> the word "toilet" traditionally had lower-class connotations and was
> avoided by others at all costs. Aristocrats preferred the blasé "loo,"
> while the nervous middle classes were instructed that the
> euphemistically elaborate "lavatory" was correct.
> "It's a very personal issue, which is why this glass cubicle, from a
> toileting perspective, is a little bit inhibiting," said Richard
> Chisness, director of the British Toilet Association, which lobbies for
> more and better public bathrooms. Any obvious bathroom on the street has
> the same problem, whether its walls are see-through or not, he said.
> "People don't like to be seen going in and out of a telephone-booth-like
> cubicle," Mr. Chisness said, "because then people know they're going to
> the loo."
> Mr. Chisness is not the world's biggest fan of "Don't Miss a Sec." "I
> didn't see any baby-change facilities there, or facilities for those
> with special needs," he said sternly. But it is better than nothing.
> "Anything that encourages more toilets in more locations - obviously,
> the B.T.A. welcomes it," he said.
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