Private Parts x Toilet Talk
Design research project with Grace Nass
body text from zine for easy reading:
- Parsons culture is a performance of how people think New Yorkers treat each other. They assume they should be fast paced and keep to themselves, with individual goals that treat each other as the opponents, when we should be treating each other as a team. In reality, NY is so special because of collaborations between people. People tend to open up more in private than in public because we learn to be disinterested in, if not scared of each other here.
- So, we wanted to activate a shared space to facilitate written interactions between students, using the comfort we curate in private spaces to make students feel more together.
- Thinking about why we were put off by the culture at our school, we looked at other art schools and the way that they bring personality to the walls and tables of public spaces. This created a vibrant social norm that pulls people together.
- We were inspired by bathrooms in a summer camps that posted articles and poems on the inside of the bathroom stalls. We found that when they are posted in a private spaces where people keep returning to, they chose to participate.
- So, we tried to borrow from these inspirations in a way that people would realistically respond to HERE at Parsons.
- We wanted to:
- Activate a space that is usually policed and “clean” as a way to show how we could rewrite the way we interact with each other.
- Find questions that create conversations that get people to be playful with each other
- Provide a space/activity that breaks down the need to be filtered with each other
- Introduce a more intimate way of knowing the faceless “new school student”
- We observed the extent to which students participate in community driven activities already - which was not much. We created something that would be convenient and allowed them to participate without asking anything of them. Taking away people’s faces made them more willing to use their voice unfiltered and us more able to listen.
- We decided to go with a simple approach, putting up posters of newsprint on the bathroom wall with crayons tied to ropes and a question for inspiration.
- Our collaborator was with the anonymous TNS student. We didn’t have any faces to the personalities in the handwriting that we were collecting which made a sort of communal voice.
- Learned feedback
- At first, we put posters in both bathroom stalls and outside by the sinks. There were zero responses on the outside but the inside ones were full.
- From this, we realized that people were much more willing to interact with each other when they were in the privacy of the bathroom and not face to face. We also realized that the comments were more positive than negative, which is the opposite of how people carry themselves in person.
- From this, we decided to only put posters in bathroom and to brand the outside with our logo because now that people know what it is, they can choose whether or not to participate.
- We learned the importance of convenience, anonymity and fun in getting people to choose to engage with our project.
- We started to leave the posters up for longer, and they became more full with more people interacting with each other. We actually forgot a poster in a bathroom and the poster got full, with people writing over other writing and eventually covered the entire bathroom stall outside the poster.
- After a few weeks, we looked at both the visual content we had collected and the needs and patterns we could read in the writing. We noticed how bad people wanted to be rebellious and overshare, often really sexual. They were fun and silly with their responses even if they were talking about their insecurities.
- We were prompted to figure out how to bring our concept back to the Parsons community. Our challenge was to bring their work back to them in a form that satisfies the needs they expressed?
- We looked at the posters themselves which were more like patterns than individual writing pieces. In the brainstorming we thought the best way to represent this would be in textile. We considered different forms to merge our materiality with our concept and decided to make underwear! This is a form that can be playful, vulnerable and intimate at the same time. Lingerie lives in private but is brought out when someone is ready to share themselves with another.
- When we first started the posters, we thought of it more as research. However, the more we did it the more it started to look like performance art, so we adjusted the way we brought it to more fit that form.
- We would like to distribute the underwear in the bathrooms, bringing our material back to the place we found it. We would occupy the pad and tampon dispensers to distribute it. We hope that when students are body to body in the elevator, they wonder if underneath the act the person next to them they are wearing the same desire to connect.