A Pictorial Guide to Sanitary Defects

2002

 

Plumbing and bodies have been associated with each other at least since modern plumbing was developed, each familiarly being used as shorthand for the other. Hence the litany of plumbing parts with names like female coupling, male coupling, heads, cocks, nipples, elbows and the like, or, conversely, the conversational euphemisms for, for example, bodily illness, as in popular film, and in the social history of vernacular architecture. Plumbing circulates as a sign of bodily anxiety, of the abject stuff of quotidian subjectivity, and of a profound modern discomfort with the conflicted state of being both an individual and an individual connected to all those other individuals encountered in the public sphere. Of course my viewer may notice that this bodily anxiety is often manifested as gynophobia, as we witness women in film, for example, whose life-blood repeatedly gurgles down drains and whose open screaming mouths are intercut with the open mouths of the plumbing.

A Pictorial Guide to Sanitary Defects appropriates images that circulate in art, film and life which instance twentieth century bodily anxiety, and juxtaposes them with images from the preceding century's often failed plumbed experiments. The Guide serves to point to a persistent obsession with and ambivalence toward bodily hygiene and to suggest some of that anxiety's nineteenth century root causes. Indeed all of the motifs in A Pictorial Guide to Sanitary Defects begin as tracings of found material; even the title of the exhibition itself is a quote from a late nineteenth century book. That these fragments are rendered in my own bodily fluids, I hope my viewer will find beautiful rather than repulsive.

 

See the review in ArtScene.