Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ce ne sont pas les urinoirs

click photo to enlarge
Anyone familiar with the Modernist work of R.Mutt aka Marcel Duchamp and the Belgian Surrealist, René Magritte, will understand the allusion in today's blog post title. It was the combination of the former's "fountain", that is to say a porcelain urinal signed "R. Mutt", combined with the title of the latter's painting of a pipe, that came to mind when I walked into this red and white men's toilet in a Lincolnshire building.As my eyes took in the cool, pristine white shapes, the astonishing red, and the way they worked together, it became obvious this was intended to be a room that offered an aesthetic experience as well as one that efficiently catered for the bodily needs of its visitors.

As I reflected further it struck me that the sanitaryware manufacturer, Armitage Shanks, had designed the white porcelain urinals (the "Aridian" waterless model no less ) and the intervening modesty screens to be sculptural objects. Not quite art, but craft with pretensions to art, the sort of minimalist work that would complement an avowedly modern building (of the sort in which these were located). One could almost see a collection of these on a black plinth lit by highly directional spotlights in a London gallery. The architect must have had thoughts along these lines because he (or she) had clearly chosen the grid of blood-red wall panels, cubicle dividers and doors to accentuate the stylish shapes. No, I thought, reflecting one more on Duchamp, these were definitely not just utilitarian, bog standard (pun intended) objects; they aspired to be something greater.

By the way, I apologise to any French speaking readers, or anyone who speaks French better than I do - that's most people - if my title mangles the language. It's a combination of my rudimentary skill and Google Translate.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 28mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/30
ISO: 3200
Exposure Compensation:  0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On