Toilet Paper (or Things to Think About While You Sit on the Loo)
Hi Jake, I was just sat on the toilet here at TRS, thinking about things, as you do. Part of me was wondering what
http://www.artfund.org/getinvolved/art-happens/a-majorexhibition-of-the-chapman-brothers/ chapman-brothers-loo-paper (accessed 01/04/2015) 1
Hi James, Thanks for your detailed toilet analysis/ report! I’m glad you mentioned the magazines in the toilet, they could have been easily overlooked, and of course the magazines are site-specific to the gallery space. In a way I’m tempted to ‘do nothing’ as that is already interesting, but perhaps a Chinese Yoga manual or an anarchist newspaper would fit right in there! In a way I want the additions to be invisible. But as you stated it is an area to infiltrate and perhaps it could aide in keeping people in the toilet for longer. If you get a chance could you take a photo of how the magazines are currently laid on the floor. I didn’t realise the chapman brothers had done toilet paper printing, thanks for the reference.
exactly I’m going to have for my dinner - probably pasta, again - while another part of me was wondering if there might be a way of infiltrating people’s toilet time further during your show. In one of our cubicles we have a current copy of Aesthetica and a really old copy of Frieze lying on the floor. Would you perhaps consider planting selected texts for people to read whilst they are sat on the toilet, whilst they are being harassed by a security guard? Even printing on to toilet paper? or is that too clichéd given the Chapmans have already done that?1 What do you think?
Would you like me to send over some photographs of the toilets in their current state?
I think it would be great for you to contribute to the selection of magazines. An anarchist newspaper would be very easily achieved. I
http://www.thisamericanlife.org/ radio-archives/episode/553/stuck-inthe-middle-2015 (accessed 12/04/2015) 2
just arrived at the studios and Ellie was listening to the current episode of the podcast This American Life. Rather significantly this episode had a piece about the hold music used on Cisco phone systems. This one piece of music, that is now stored on most if not all Cisco phone systems is called ‘Opus #1’ and has been described as the best ‘hold music’ ever made. The episode, #553: Stuck In The Middle (2015)2, is very quirky. The interesting story is that of Dick. Dick is described as a “process man”, once an engineer who worked for IBM in the 50’s and 60’s. Recently he became obsessed with discovering the author to a certain piece of hold music (recorded music which is played to fill the silent time when a telephone caller has been placed on hold). Whenever phoning his hospital, medical billing centre or various medical specialists he would be put on hold. The music was always the same and had a haunting quality. Dick asked the receptionist whom he was phoning, “what is that great music?” To their bewilderment at his question they would routinely state they didn’t know. And when Dick would try to describe the song he would always fail as how do you hum a 1980’s synth bell sound, drum machine, clapping ballad? Furthermore it wasn’t in the database of Spotify. Eventually in the radio program we find out the name of the song and its composer, Tim Carleton.
Tim Carleton wrote the piece as a teenager in his parents garage in California on a four track tape with his friend Darrick Deel. Eventually they gave the piece to the American multinational Cisco Systems Inc, who now use it as their default hold music on all of their phone systems. It’s a really interesting report/article and they have made the piece of music available for download from This Americn Life’s website. Maybe this is another point of reference for your work? Yes, please send me over a photo of the toilets, I am curious to see their arrangement and the random things left in there... Yes, lets use the anarchist newspaper idea and your art magazines one, we could plant issues of Frieze magazine and also ‘art materials’ catalogues in their too. At one point I thought about putting in a time management book, those peculiar performance texts which promise to ‘truly maximise the way you live your working, school or personal life’. It could be an interesting oxymoron to have one of these books in there as of course during the exhibition it would be impossible to read due to the time limit on toilet breaks. Do TRS toilets have any graffiti in them? I actually witnessed a (slightly grumpy looking) elderly lady a couple of weeks ago tagging in a train station. It was in the middle class banlieue of Paris, Joinvillele-Pont. I wanted to film this lady with my smart phone but I hesitated as she looked so powerful and disobedient. Her writing wasn’t a made up signature or a gang sign
she was writing something political with a pragmatic black marker pen. Within minutes the RER A train arrived and we both got aboard. I didn’t stay to take a note of what she wrote. I wondered if she was going to write anything inside the train; she didn’t. She sat normally like a standard citizen and got off at her stop. So she is now a mystery. Thanks for mentioning the podcast. I’m glad Elie was listening to it and I think you are right to mention it as there is definitely a link to the theme, that being the theme of being stuck somewhere, not nowhere, but nowhere particularly interesting. The toilet of course epitomises this idea as well as other non-places such as waiting rooms, airports or even large underground stations where you are forever walking in homogenous tunnels to find your platform or exit. This 5 minute track ‘Opus #1’ as you described James must be the best hold music, it has the default slot for over 65 million phone systems worldwide. Unfortunately Tim Carleton doesn’t receive any loyalties from his composition and its not as if this (alien or office) genre of music has a market for live concerts, or does it? Going back to ideas about music in relation to the project in June, I thought perhaps it could work to use ‘Opus #1’ or, alternatively, as a starting point for another toilet soundtrack. I typed it into YouTube to find suggested videos. There is a really interesting selection of songs, an almost polar soundtrack I found under the playlist toilet music, not to be confused with tranquil and jazzy
elevator music, it is a fast paced testosterone mix with songs which have lyrics that almost accidentally describe an efficient trip to the toilet. The first track is called ‘push it to the limit’. The comments section is disturbing. I found something also interesting I wanted to share with you, I guess it comes from our preliminary Skype calls in which you sent over the floor plans of TRS. At that point we were talking heavily about logistics and space available and the way I wanted to almost not use the space but keep it empty. Check out this illustration of vertical seats (fig. 1). It describes a Ryan Air alternative service or better termed no frills service, which never took off. Apparently in 2006 they wanted to make standing seats, so they could fit more people on their planes. That idea definitely relates to stripping back and subtracting. They also thought about making their passengers pay to use the toilet and make a tax on those aboard who were overweight.
I really like the story about the old lady using graffiti as the vehicle for her political opinions. The fact that you were unable to stick around to read what she had written is interesting aside to the story. In relation to your question about graffiti in the toilets at TRS, I can’t say I have ever noticed any in the toilets that will be used for your work, but there is the obligatory penis in the toilets of the other building. Graffiti in toilets is only something you would notice if you are standing at a urinal or sitting on a toilet I feel. If people are in a hurry, they won’t take time to do the graffiti and likewise will be concentrating to
http://www.jaunted.com/ story/2006/4/25/122951/249/travel/ Stand+Up+for+Your+Rights (accessed 12/04/2015)
hard on completing their evacuation to read it. Maybe there is something in that, that the most poignant graffiti could the one you miss because you are being hurried. Your own personal time management effects your ability to absorb your surroundings in many ways. I’ve been thinking more about the music used on telephone systems, in elevators or in waiting rooms. In my teenage years there was an album by Trüby Trio that I used to listen to frequently, particular when going to sleep. The album was called Elevator Music (Compost Records, 2003) and it was of what you might call the ‘nu jazz’ style. I often wondered, perhaps due to its title, whether it was actually utilised as music to be played in elevators. If so this would in some way negate the idea that certain musicians may receive a fee to record this kind of music, a performance fee, but do not receive any royalties beyond that. I don’t know how it works exactly, but presumably if Elevator Music was ever to be played in an elevator Trüby Trio would receive some royalties. These vertical seats are really interesting. On one hand you have this capitalist mentality of trying to get more people into a small space to make more money, but they could just as easily be used to reduce the cost of flying for the consumer: the more people on the plane should equate to lower priced tickets, theoretically. It got me thinking about urinals, or specifically how men are able to urinate comfortably standing up and how this is the biggest factor in the time one takes
Yes I completely agree if you are in a hurry your chances to notice little details penned on walls or etched into them is definitely missable depending on the pace of your life. Often this type of information is completely irrelevant to ones life, career and survival so it becomes unnoticed. I’m currently listening on Youtube to that ‘nu jazz’ style album you recommended. The current track has a lively allegretto tempo with a texture full of cow bells ringing! I can imagine it being quite pleasant during a brief stint in the elevator as perhaps it could create the sensation of this banal activity accelerating. As who wants to be in a lift for a long time! The music also reminds me of a type of Brazilian chill out (or lounge music) that used to be played on repeat in the first internet cafe I used to go to when they were a new thing. Hypothetically if this album ‘Elevator’ was played in lifts there is a good chance that the artists Trüby Trio wouldn’t be paid. In creative industries discounted labour and unpaid labour is generally accepted under the conditions that it is good exposure. But under the realm of artistic activity and the creation of work, the grey areas of creation and authorship are extremely pertinent to
to go to the toilet. Are you aware of the She-Pee3 or Shewee? I first encountered the She-Pee at Glastonbury Festival. They were being promoted by Water Aid as a way of saving water, allowing women to urinate standing up at a urinal. In reality, they were more effective at time saving and avoiding queues to the cubicle toilets.
our generation. Svetlana Heger and Plamen Dejanovs’ ‘Plenty of Objects of Desire’ (1999-2000) being a simple case in point. Its content is purchased artworks and design objects made from the labour of others, but assembled by them. I wonder if they had to pay royalty fees on top of their quotidian shop purchases or do you think they managed to conceptually justify their use of another persons design/work? What are your thoughts with regards to this, in your art and curatorial practise have you had to deal directly with problems of authorship or even plagiarism? Wow the Shewee. To quote a customer on Amazon’s Sheewee Extreme: ‘* * * * * best invention ever’. I must confess its the first time I heard about them! And yes they must be great at Glastonbury to help avoid crazy queues for women who simply need a wee. As it happens I used to go to Glastonbury from a very young age, we didn’t take the Shewee. We used to take a potty! P.S. I have had some conceptual progression on music to be played during Toilet Time-Compression. The theme will no longer be a synth/ programmed drum machine sounding 80’s hold music ballad. It will be the sound of Royal Music. It’s interesting you mention the notion of being in a lift for too long. I was reading the other day about the world’s tallest artificial structures and how when the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is completed it will stand at 1000m high - the tallest
building in the world by a long way. How long would it take to get to the top of that building in an elevator? I presumed it would be a long time and that there would be natural logistical problems to contend with. As it happens the elevators are expected to travel at a speed of 10m per second(!) so it will take less than two minutes to reach the top platform. Are you aware of the Žižekian refelection on ideoligicial differences and existential attitudes of toilets in France, Germany and England? He interprets the differences in toilet bowl styles as representing “Reflective thoroughness (German), revolutionary hastiness (French) and utilitarian pragmatism (English)” (Žižek, 2004) stating that these toilet styles reflect how are lives are governed in different place. He goes on to talk about how the German ‘shelf ’ style bowl allows one to inspect your faeces before flushing,
‘You Marxist, I clean toilet: Racism, Labor and the Bathroom Attendant’ (2011) - http://framejournal.org/ system/files/articles/atluri.pdf (accessed 18/05/2015)
while the French ‘drop’ systems allows your deposit to disappear immediately and the English system affords neither of these possibilities. I found this interesting article on bathroom attendants when looking into this further4, it incorporates the Žižekian theory and describes it far more eloquently than I ever could. Regarding your question about the subject of plagiarism and authorship, this is not something I have ever encountered with regards to my own practice as an artist or curator but it is an area that interests me. There was a landmark case recently passed relating to the use of the ‘Harlem Break’ samples in hip-hop. Although this has nothing to do with Toilet
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The Kingdom Tower in Jeddah (the city which has a strap line for westerners “Jeddah is Different” according to wikipedia) is an interesting reference. One kilometer tall is pretty substantial. It’s interesting to think of how in the 19th century we were preoccupied with time, speed and cycles whereas moving into the 20th century the production of these large vertical skyscrapers became important too. The Shun Hing Square Tower, Shenzen in China, built in the nineties, is one of the tallest buildings in the world and was built at a the ‘machinic’ speed of four floors in nine days, the labour power of this matches the 10 meters per second engineering of your reference.6 To me the finalised ‘in working order’ of these buildings represent concrete manifestations of landed, commercial and finance capital. And of course the elevators’ levitating mechanisms have to parallel the speeds of capitals’ flows. I’m sure however the lift in the Kingdom Tower building will actually be very impressive once built, and a vital organ to the building. I doubt it would be a dimly lit square but instead a light filled glass box that emphasises the landscape or should I say skyline of Jeddah. The spatial code in the lift I’m sure would be fascinating, presumably with entrepreneurs using
http://www.e-flux.com/ journal/eupalinos-and-theduck-conceptualism-in-recentarchitecture/ (accessed 14/06/2015) 6
Time-Compression there is a good piece on YouTube about it by Nate Harrison (2004)5 that I think would be worth watching. Can I ask why you have decided to make the change from hold music to Royal Music?
it as an informal site of discussion and liaison. I wonder if they will opt for elevator music? Or is it too vintage now? Moving back to toilets: “It is easy for an academic of a round table to claim that we live in a postideological universe but the moment he visits the lavatory after the heated discussion, he is again knee deep in ideology” - Žižek7 I was unaware of a Žižeks reflections on toilets - thanks very much for that I’m glad there has been some good scholarly, Lacanian, Marxist and Existential theory on toilets I can claim my ‘Toilet TimeCompression’ performance to be heavily rooted in. Do TRS’s match his English “utilitarian pragmatism”8 nomenclature? I quite like his analysis mixing lavatory tech specs with politics something in which Tara Atluri has taken further in her text you sent over. Her investigation of toilets puts more specifically into question the migrant bathroom attendant. Often an undocumented shadow worker who reflects the origin of our racist heritage of slavery to contemporary modes of xenoracism9. For this project however I think its more fitting to reflect upon her notes of the performance of this space. What’s interesting is that the attendants job is to act as a form of cheap police, that make sure shooting up heroin, sex and fights (to name extreme examples) isn’t taking place, but also they can act to our social consciousness by making sure we wash our hands before going back to our social or work lives. So in a way Alturi argues that the lolipops
http://framejournal.org/system/files/ articles/atluri.pdf (p.69, accessed 14/06/2015)
and perfumes that are often available are peripheral signs that mask a more deeper ‘invisible’ form of work and surveillance. Finally on the subject I’d like to note its rather ironic that these attendants cleanse our moral consciousness, yet they exist in an exterior amoral system of shit jobs with lax human rights and security. To continue the post-Duchampian toilet discussion I found a really absurd book by Thomas Mailaender, ‘Toilet Fail’ he has some documentation of it on his website10 Thanks for the Harlem Shake reference, that 20minute clip offers a great synopsis of a small drum break’s metamorphic life moving from 1960s funk music into 90s rave, jungle and dance music. And yes you are right it seems to be such a historically important case, putting into question how can creativity (a word I don’t like to use) advance if one can’t rework and re-appropriate what has came before it.
http://www.thomasmailaender. com/toilet-fail/ (accessed 14/06/2015)
With regards to the choice of Royal Music, The conservatives have been reinstated with a majority government and out of pure fear of the restrictions of freedom of speech and protest, I’ll keep the space silent or inline with the video teaser of the event’s soundtrack ‘Opus #1’ for this activation. That is not to say that we shouldn’t write a proposal to curate an evening concert of classical and ‘Royal’ music at the Royal Standard and destroy it’s connotations with tracksuits, binge drinking and spray tan! You’re right that the elevators of tall buildings such as Kingdom Tower and the Shun Hing Square Tower represent the size and velocity of
ecomic growth in these cities, which is possibly reflected in their phallic demeanor. However, by contrast, I also feel the elevators themselves possess an almost maternal sense of security. I realise there are many people would disagree, particularly those who suffer from claustrophobia, but that is my opinion. Continuing the theme of elevators, I was wondering whether the idea of the ‘elevator pitch’ could be translated to toilet cubicles or urinals. Would you feel comfortable promoting your abilities to a new acquaintance whilst you wash your pissy hands? Or worse, whilst you both stand urinating into a trough? Perhaps this is something else that could be regulated by your toilet police, along with spatial code. TRS toilets do indeed match Žižek’s categorisation of ‘utilitarian pragmatism’. Thomas Mailaender’s ‘Toilet Fail’ book looks fantastic.
This conversation, between James Harper and Jake Laffoley, took place via email over several days between 1st April and 25th June 2015. Toilet time-compression. A service to be activated (duration variable). At any given museum, foundation or enterprise there will be a maximum time limit for toilet breaks: 2 minutes to be precise. If one breaches this rule a member of staff will abruptly invite the guest to move on – “times up!” The publishing of this conversation is intended to act as an introdcutory/ accompanying text to the event ‘Toilet Time-Compression’ which took place at The Royal Standard, Liverpool, on Friday 26th June 2015.
This conversation, between James Harper and Jake Laffoley, took place via email over several days between 1st April and 25th June 2015. Toi...
Published on Jun 26, 2015
This conversation, between James Harper and Jake Laffoley, took place via email over several days between 1st April and 25th June 2015. Toi...