Have You Seen the Art Intervention in the Frieze Washrooms Yet?
There's a political message in the watermelon-scented installation.
Julie Verhoeven’s The Toilet Attendant… Now Wash Your Hands felt more like a private party than a functional washroom on preview day.
Scattered pieces litter the floors of a toilet at the far end of the main Frieze tent, as ’80s power ballads fill up the cubicles and the rooms. Trolleys stuffed to the hilt with overflowing amounts of memorabilia and miscellany stand alone at two intervals, each equipped with a hot pink mini-DVD player.
Each toilet comes individually wrapped in pink and white pastels, lending the work a plastic, and cute, edge. The work even has a signature scent, which smells fruity, like watermelon. A cool breeze from one of the only air-conditioners in the main tent is also a welcome bonus.
Tampons are tied to the edges of the trolley like chandelier earrings, along with velvet stuffed toys resembling poo-emoji, there’s even small disco balls that twinkle and glide, and a dash of mouthwash in tiny plastic cups for those inclined to swish.
And of course, there is the presence of Verhoeven herself, dressed in a costume spelling out, with hand-embroidered gilded thread: “Use Three to Four Sheets per Wipe…”
The artist chats amicably with people as they try to hurry to the toilet (some with more urgency than others). Undeterred, Verhoeven gently lifted a white cloth tied to string at the corner of the space, and queried, “What do you think of this detail?”
While there, classic power ballads are interrupted by rude, and loud, gastric exertions and fluid releases, which were shocking to some guests, embarrassing to others, but made most visitors smile.
The work is at first a seemingly innocent architectural intervention, but by making the presence of the toilet attendant so irrefutably loud and unmissable, Verhoeven reveals the invisibility of low-income labor professions, and the ethical concerns associated with these jobs.
She will be an attendant for the duration of the fair, with intervals conducted by special guests. This is definitely not one to miss, certainly not if you love a bit of Céline Dion to accompany your wee.
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