Toilet-Paper Holders, Reimagined as Works of Art
Toilet paper, like so many everyday items, has become a political point of contention in this maelstrom of a year, one that’s had us reexamining all that seemed ordinary or mundane in pre-pandemic times. As the onset of Covid-19 lockdown sent Americans panic-stocking their homes with seemingly enough toilet paper to last a lifetime, the rich got richer—by, we feel the need to point out, selling and manufacturing rolls that pollute waterways, are loaded with harmful toxins, and source virgin wood pulp. A single company, owned by Koch Industries, controls a staggering 29 percent of the $31 billion tissue-paper industry in North America, as designers Benjamin Critton and Heidi Korsavong, co-directors of the Los Angeles art and design gallery Marta, point out. And with their latest installation, “Under/Over,” on view through Nov. 1, they’re addressing this dark underlayer of the Big T.P. industry with a group show examining the bathroom as a place of social and environmental politics.
In partnership with the start-up manufacturer Plant Paper (which makes toxin- and tree-free toilet paper using only fast-growing, FSC-certified bamboo), Critton and Korsavong invited more than 50 artists and designers to reimagine a “seemingly humble piece of hardware that we invariably interact with every day”: the toilet-paper holder. Among the international range of participants rethinking the toilet-paper wheel are Memphis group alum Peter Shire, Rotterdam-based talent Sabine Marcelis, Italian designer Martino Gamper, and the German-Moroccan studio Bnag, run by Oliver-Selim Boualam and Lukas Marstaller, whose creations bring a playful element of sculpture to even the banal. If, as the show’s title cheekily suggests, your only passing thoughts on the topic revolve around which way the roll should unspool, you’re bound to leave this irreverent show engaged and enraged about all sorts of shit.