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Toilets (Unprojected Habits)

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REVIEW: Kyong Park, Storefront Report (February 1992)
REVIEW: Patricia C. Phillips, ARTFORUM (May 1992)
REVIEW
: Rebecca Ross, Yedioth America, (May 1992)

Urban Space Experiment: Toilet as a piece of art (Translated from Hebrew)


You can find whatever your mind can think of in New York, but there is one important thing missing: public bathrooms. I bet, you the reader, have experienced that pressured and uncomfortable experience of not having public bathrooms, but until tomorrow, March 14, you have a solution for that problem, a very partial solution because it is only in lower Manhattan: 5 bathrooms are standing one next to another for the public at the corner streets of Broome and Kenmare until tomorrow, as stated. People passing by who are using those essential facilities do not know that they are doing their duty inside a piece of art - really inside a gallery. This piece of art was designed by 3 young architects who graduated from an architecture school in Michigan.

They saved the outer wooden wall of the Storefront gallery and installed 5 portable toilets whose entrances are from the street. The actual toilet itself is inside the gallery space. The architects are stating that their project is an urban space experiment. They are breaking an inner space and turning into a public space, bringing the outside in, and the art out for the public's use. In other words, everyone who takes care of there needs there, activates the art piece and participates in the creative act.

When the three architects, James Cathcart, Frank Fantauzzi, and Terence Van Elslander first introduced themselves to the gallery, which is open for innovative experiments, the owners were shocked. "I was honestly hurt" said Shirin, of Persian extraction who runs the gallery together with her husband, a Korean architect. "To break a wall, to put bathrooms, a symbol of all that is vulgar and commonplace, in an art gallery? But slowly, slowly we started to understand not just the humor of the project, but all the many meanings that are hidden in it."

On one hand, there is in here a socio-political statement: New York offers everyone anything he wishes to have as long as he can pay for what he gets, does not recognize the needs of the human body. Even money will not but you a bathroom on Fifth Avenue, even though this is exactly what you need at this moment. On the other hand, this piece of work is discussing in a bold way the role of art in our days - what is art, in effect, were is the line separating art from the ordinary object. "And the truth," says Shirin, "even we couldn't decide," and she adds by the way "the public bathrooms are cleaned once a week."

Rebecca Ross, 1992