home away from home

there are a few cool kids’ gangs that i feel like i’m part of, even though i’m not really. or not really ‘there’.
probably to the point of embarrassment. 
like, i’ll walk in there one day and say ‘hi!’ to everyone, and they’ll have NO idea who i am:
the design conspiracy is one of them (especially before ben terrett left) – in fact, i think i did walk in there like i was part of the crew. luckily ben was there and i could just shuffle into doing something to help out
coffee mornings was another – i would see pics and read about who was there on every friday morning at the breakfast club in soho and i felt like i was part of the crew. when i did arrive in london, of course i would rock up. even though they were mostly planners and russelldavies fanboys (sorry russell). but i had a good time and everyone was welcoming and i met people who i continue to keep in touch with in elastic ways.
slightly less chummy, but just as ‘part of’ was actually tate modern. although it was more because i would read TATE ETC, their members’ magazine, and my friend/husband john would send me stuff from their exhibitions. and it only takes one visit to the museum i reckon and there’s a physical connect.

kaotic craft kuties is another club that, when it was in full swing, i felt like i was there when i wasn’t there; my friend esther’s new loungeroom sunday salon, where artsy and/or farsty crew talk about the stuff they’re up to, discuss themes like committment, burnout and collaboration – i get a great wrap-up of what happened at the salon, and i feel like i was almost there, which is great.

i sometimes forget that i don’t work at ARUP with dan hill from city of sound or  geoff manaugh at bldgblog, or rory/simon/stewart/christine from The Architects – because when i read their stuff, or listen to them on the radio, or watch them present, i feel like i could be there if time, money or qualifications were no issue.

WK London

the big one, hilariously, is wieden + kennedy. i have so many blog/twitter/instagram friends who work in their offices around the world, who are always posting pictures about what they’re doing, writing blogs about their stuff, i see youtube videos of campaigns and have had discussions peeps in person, that it’s like i’m the kid next door. 
i’m sure i’m not alone with that one – there are tonnes of advertising creative types that want to work there, i’m sure their receptionist in london gets it ALL THE TIME. and i supposed their CEO and creative directors get emails from strangers asking for advice and think ‘who the fuck are you?’. annoying maybe, but then hopefully they see it as proof that they do a good job of keeping people connected to them.

it’s a bit sad that there aren’t many art organisations that i feel that connected to really. e-flux does a good job of making me feel at home in the art scene generally. as does artlife. but i’m yet to walk into a gallery, or arts organisation for the first time and get weird looks when i say ‘hi!’ like i’ve been there a thousand times before.
maybe i’m not trying hard enough. maybe there’s something in that…
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home

“the sign of being at home is the ability to make oneself understood wihout too much difficulty, and to follow the reasoning of others without any need for long explanations”

marc, augé; non-places; verso, london 1995. [my current read and new bible]

i love this definition of home. it certainly pertains to several places in which i call home – melbourne, hamburg, paris and turin. london is a great place to work and it’s certainly more homely than before, but it’s not really home. i often need long explanations to work out why the fuck some of the londoners do what they do.

paris is certainly a place i feel at home in. even with my totally shit french (which most of them forgive, thankfully) i can be understood. there are a few ways in which my modus operandi is supported here, which makes life just flow, unlike almost any other place:

time: everything is open at sensible hours – late. i can go to a gallery until midnight – or even until 9pm during the week. i can buy cool necklaces until 8pm at night and the supermarket around the corner is open until way late. i don’t even know what time it shuts, but it’s always open when i walk past, so that’s fine 🙂 transport runs until late, bikes are open for hire 24/7, clubs until 6am and people are just about. i don’t feel the pressure to subscribe to a 9-5/M-F lifestyle, which makes this very home-like.

art: loads of places to see and experience art. i know that paris hasn’t had a crackin’ art scene for a while, but it’s slowly building again it seems and i’m discovering all kinds of cool places to go. plus, as an artist/student, i get cheap deals all the time – free for some galleries, €1 for others, or just a great price. it feels nice to have my profession ‘valued’ and that is pretty home-like.

diet: while i certainly miss the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables from home, they’re not completely absent (unlike london – hello? everything wrapped in plastic? blech!). and the whole idea of just ambling through the day with some food here and there is great. baguette and coffee, croissant and coffee, pizza and coffee, everything and coffee – i love it! this time around, i’ve been staying with germans who know how to dine like europeans, so it’s been extra ace. i love that dinner is late here and breakfast is late. and lunch is kind of non-existent. just like at home 🙂

whilst these habits are not the only things that make up a home, they’re ones that certainly support me as myself and i don’t have to justify or explain them to others. and, as in the above quote, there is a mutual sense of understanding.

in fact, quite often, paris feels so much like a comfortable pair of shoes that i always forget to take photos here. i end up with no usual ‘artifact’ of my trip here, just a whole bunch of books, drawings, tickets, feelings, memories and some other intangible stuff.

i like that.

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occupied

this should probably wait until i’ve presented it to the peeps on site next week, but as i was uploading it to the pages which will eventurally make up my new site, i thought that it might be worthwhile putting up here.

Occupied
Performance

As part of a project on public space, and a continuation of the toilet project, Lauren staged a small performance on a day in September within a public toilet at Knox Shopping Centre – a large private mall in the outer suburbs of Melbourne (and part of the new public spaces of consumption).

The only documentation was a short section of video, writing and stickers left on the site:

An artist sat here for an hour and a half
She did not buy a thing
She did not worry about what to buy
She read, wrote, thought and daydreamed

210
The real values of culture can be maintained only by negating culture.
But this negation can no longer be a cultural negation. It may in a sense take place within a culture, but it points beyond it. (Debord)
*

*Taken from the chapter: Negation and Consumption within Culture
Society of the Spectacle, Guy Debord
Published by Rebel Press, UK.

The aim of the action was about privacy, public space, private space and acting politically through inaction. a kind of extension of gandhi’s nonviolent resistance – a resistance to the sprawling mass of consumption that places like Knox [see also Chadston e and Southland] are – suburbs as shopping malls, with a hold over public facility and jurisdiction, without the accountability or regard for the politic.

This work also sought to challenge the idea of what a private space is in public. Interestingly, before the action/performance there was talk of the police being called, of centre management reacting badly, of the women who were using the other toilets taking offence at someone sitting in the toilet, not using the toilet, but just being there.

Interestingly, these were just the anxieties of artists who have been told, time after time that the public cannot cope. I had no problems. Not one person asked what i was doing, not even when i had to retrieve a pen that had dropped and rolled into the next cubicle. No one from centre management came and knocked on my door – and my toilet was in the block next to their offices. No policewoman asked me to leave the centre.

Sucked in.

I got to have my own space for a while. Just to sit and chill out, read, think, hum a little, dream and write. Public space without the pressure of buying something. It was lovely.

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the art of the toilet

i’ve been starting to ramp up my research into public toilets lately (have a project in one at the moment). then this turned up on wooster yesterday (thanks to miss emma for the heads up)

and then tonight in readings bookstore i found this book i need: designing public toilets.

everything always comes together when it comes together.

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toilets: private spaces

SpinachDay3ToiletPipe.jpg

following on from my private in public presentation/investigation, i thought i should let you in on my most recent obsession: toilets. more specifically public toilets.

actually, if i’m confessing, then i’ve been slightly taken by public loos for quite a while. i love comparing them, seeing the differences and the similarities between them, finding the gems, resigning myself to the awful ones, listening to the conversations, checking out the graffiti on the walls and noticing the cultural signifiers that invariably turn up in the most private of public spaces. and so it seems that public toilets have become the focus of my research.

if you’re particularly astute, you’ll have noticed the beginning of toilet-based links on my del.icio.us page, plus the previous wishlist of having a studio in a toilet. there are a few areas about public toilets that specifically interest me, which i’ll probably keep coming back to over the next little while so be prepared. i’m hoping to avoid the obvious toilet humour, but being that i have such a tacky sense of humour it may be unavoidable. i’ll do my best.

social history and theory focused on the toilet

i’m just starting to get into this right now and have discovered henri lefebvre’s discussion on the everyday, his relation to the situationists/debord and his criticism of the bourgeouisie denial of the everyday and pushing it to the extreme of architectural space. plus the ol’ bachelard’s poetics of such a space: hardly a room, but four corners and how we relate to corners as our retreat, our back-up. our protection in times of vulnerability, but also our entrapment.
then of course there’s the place of the public toilet in modern dynamics: the place of the public toilet in women’s social freedom and the role of the beats in homosexual freedom and teenage rites of passage. (i promise i won’t mention teenagers giving blowjobs in the school toilets. that might be pornographic)

archaeology/architecture/design of public toilet.

i’m sure there’ll be more in lefebvre’s urban criticism about the architectural role of the toilet in there too and i’m also interested in the architectural history of toilets: what they look like, the ones that have disappeared, closed off, enshrined and the weird/wonderful places that they exist.

and of course there’s the straight-up design comparisons between them.*

role of the public toilet in the urban rhythm.
8 Red Sticker 2.jpg

this spans across a couple of areas.
of course i’m interested in the way people engage with public toilets [for an hilarious post about this, especially with children, check out this on dooce. it’s fantastic] – their idiosyncrasies, neuroses, things they take for granted and obvious cultural differences (like those ladies in london loos selling lollipops).
plus, i’m interested in the role of the toilet in the whole realm of architecture/urban planning – does a dysfunctional toilet signify a dysfunctional society? and how much is a city influenced by its toilets? if we focuses as much attention on designing our loos as we do our bedrooms, would we be happier?

as you can see, this is all a pile of unanswered, loosely sketched, incoherent crap (d’oh! pun!), but i’m kind of excited about answering some of these questions and starting to flesh out what it all means in terms of my work. i’ve already begun working on the toilet project [mark 1], a public-ish work which simultaneously reconfigures architecture through craft/fashion methodology and also starts to facilitate some interesting reactions, which will hopefully challenge a few of those idiosyncrasies i was talking about before. i’ll be posting more here soon, so stay tuned.

*i’ve always secretly wanted to do a toilet guide to sydney or melbourne. the companion publication to the melbourne/sydney design guides? ha!

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from fourth plinth to third place

A couple of years ago, I heard about the idea of the third place: not home, not work, but the other place where people spend time in a comfortable social setting.

It came up in the development of a website for an old workplace and, unsurprisingly, the internet and online social networks are the new third (or fourth) place for people [which I can attest to, given the time I spend on blogs and the people who I’m friends with because of them].

I have thought about this ‘place’ every now and again, in relation to creating a particular environment for artwork, and of course it was brought home to me especially when I was in Europe, sitting in die platz or la piazza with everyone else.

And even more recently, I’ve been thinking about it in terms of how I’ve spent my summer.

Almost every day I go here.

The coffee is good, the barista is cute and it feels homely. The owner is a lovely woman who loves her regulars and they always know what I order: short black.

Creating that kind of atmosphere is not only good business sense for Victoria and the gang, but vital to the health of the community and the individuals within it. It provides an avenue for me to sit, enjoy being around people, without necessarily having to interact, and to feel ‘a part of’ without having to know any prior social codes or language.

And then, after I go there, I go here.

It’s my other third place, but more on the level of a public private place. When I’m out there in the water, swimming or floating, listening to the sound of the waves against the sand, I get introspective [in a socially-acceptable way].

I saw on someone’s delicious list recently (probably from the ever-referenced Dan Hill) an article about the place of the beach in the Australian’s psyche being similar to that of the church as a place to ‘cure what ails ya’. And I’m inclined to agree, really. I always feel better after a swim. I feel more connected to who I am, my body, my place in society – a mental, physical and spiritual salve, the role that the church plays in religious populations: a third place.

Given that I’ll be doing a lot of work in the public sphere this year, the idea of connecting with people publicly when they’re most open to being connected with is an important one and you can expect more on this soon.

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