On Toilets
Shown in ‘Coalesce: Happenstance’
A Paul O’Neill project
Smart Project Space, Amsterdam
January 2009
Text of poster
On Toilets

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The toilet is not, usually, something to be contemplated in a gallery.

The toilet is, usually, discreetly placed within the gallery.

The toilet is to be used rather than to be seen.

The toilet is separated from the gallery by a door, or doors.

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

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 improvised exit is made.

The need for the toilet can also be 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.

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 of secret desires, such as sexual encounters and narcotic ingestion.

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.

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 hte 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.

The toilets are not (usually) considered part of the space of display of the gallery. They are not something to look at (nor to look into).

The toilets, qua readymade, do not follow the Duchampian criteria of objects that provoke complete visual indiffence.

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 normally left out.

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