On Tuesday 11th August, we held our final toilet workshop of the project; a creative exploration into toilet awkwardness, comfort and safety using recycled art materials and our wild imaginations.
Nicky, an artist at The Bower Wirks, delved into our experiences of toilets in an innovative fashion; starting the workshop by asking us to sit in a circle of chairs and imagine how we’d feel if the chairs were toilets. As we sat, looking each other in the eye and shifting uncomfortably on our imagined toilet seats, we discussed what it was about being visible and audible on the toilet that made us feel so awkward.
Nicky asked what we could do to make our circle of inward-facing toilets even more uncomfortable. We suggested that the toilets could be transparent so that all excretions would be on full view to others; there could be a technology which recorded the noises made by participants on the toilet and then played them back afterwards, and those noises could be accompanied by a screen which broadcasts an image of the individual who made the noise in the first place; there could be a full audience surrounding the toilet-users; we could be sitting in a circle so small that all our knees were touching; and we could be expected to pull Christmas crackers during our toilet act. Despite many of us finding toilets uncomfortable, awkward and unsafe already, we had many ideas of how they could be even worse.
We were then encouraged to work with masses of corrugated cardboard, lace, various kinds of fabric, colouring pens, paper, wooden pegs, lengths of bamboo and many other materials in a creative adventure to find our ideal toilet; one which didn’t present any of those feelings of awkwardness, exclusion, fear or discomfort. Features in our public toilet utopia included huge amounts of space; walls which were inviting to be written upon; a television; a flap to allow goats to visit; a foot spa; a view of the sea and the stars; a Tory-exclusion policy; a cross-word; a sign to stop the policing of toilets; no cost to use; a hoist; a chair for children; and a shelf for colostomy bags or other things.
There were so many ways in which we felt toilets could be improved. We reflected on just how unimaginative most toilets spaces can be, especially accessible toilets, which tend to emphasise functionality and give no extra consideration to relaxation, comfort, pleasure and aesthetic. Nicky asked us to think about the range of ways toilets could be used in our toilet utopia and reminded us just how limiting and regulative current toilet-use tends to be. Our art materials filled the space at Z-arts with an incredible maze of card, colour and toilet politics – a vision of what could be possible in a better future! Thank you, Nicky, for helping us to unleash our imaginations!
And a huge thank you to everyone who has attended any of the Around the Toilet workshops over the past few months.
The next part of the project will be an exciting collaboration with the Master’s students at the Sheffield School of Architecture. In September we’ll be meeting the students to discuss the outcomes of our workshops and they’ll start work on a public installation to get other people thinking about toilets as well. Keep an eye on the blog and twitter account for further updates!
– Written by Charlotte Jones, Research Assistant on the Around the Toilet project