Saturday, 15 August 2009

doG patch

Your Highness, you are also like a stream of bat's piss.


I ... I merely meant, Your Majesty, that you shine out like a shaft of gold when all around is dark.
Monty Python

There's a certain kind of utilitarian aesthetic to be enjoyed in the great British tradition of the public urinal. I refer, of course, not to the dingily lit familiarity that brings comfort and solace to the cottager, but to a more sublime realm that, in its contrived anonymity of public convenience and functionality, also recognises the inherent privacy - sacredness as well as universality - of bodily functions. A small house that is no more than a large room, that in most modern houses, is the small room.

It is no accident that the Victorians - inventors of the canal ways, railways, museums, parks and squares, and more generally, the public space - should turn their collective minds to the vexed issue of people issuing urine over, in, or indeed, upon those very public spaces. There are certain water features that are best appreciated in air-restricted confines. It is also no accident that Duchamp's depiction of the urinal has a faintly British whiff about it, while concealing a continental cynicism in its apparent cleanliness, which, as the Victorians taught us, is next to godliness. He was clearly taking the proverbial.

Now when we enter the urinal, we – if you'll pardon the pun – enter a world of reassuringly thick contours and curves forming the moulded enamel surfaces of otherwise brute ceramic slabs: never quite the pristine white of the virginal, more preferring the coffee and tobacco ivory stucco of British dentistry. Then there's the ubiquitous repetitive geometric of wipe-clean tiling and, lest we forget, everywhere, the water-tight tomb sealant between every gap: in-between floors, pipes, sinks, taps and walls and, finally, the chambers of the vestibular chamber itself.

But perhaps, what marks out the public urinal, as say opposed to any other public utility, apart from the omnipresent toxic gag-inducing stench, is that they often house, per room, more doors on the inside, than those leading into them from the outside. They are homes to the cubicle, closets for the shy or less shameless, like tightly packed confessionals in a church, of sorts, where guilt is metaphorically and, quite literally, flushed away under the baptismal mitigation of micturition – especially in this over conscious age of over conspicuous water conservation and the concomitant sanctity of retention ... which brings me back to those repulsive and attractive forces ... the almost palpable architectural tension ... an ambiguity between the residence and receptacle ... where silence is the crucible of a golden shower ... and the urethra, the divine umbilical cord ...

Fortunately the hand-dryer drowned out the rest of monologue. How QT hated toilet tourists. The hand-wash splash down his work trouser, was indistinguishable from a hose howler.

C'est ne pas un urinoir

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