Bathroom breaks are all part of the show at Frieze London this year, thanks in no small part to iconic fashion illustrator/designer/performer/artist Julie Verhoeven. She's applied her colorful, fleshy style to an installation and performance in one of the fair complex's lavatories: The Toilet Attendant… Now Wash Your Hands is part of Frieze Projects, curated this year by Raphael Gygax.
Its project page describes The Toilet Attendant… Now Wash Your Hands as a "performative intervention in one of the washrooms complexes at the fair—probably the most egalitarian space within the whole event. Verhoeven’s playful architectural and performance interventions will not just create a more hospitable environment but will also open up space for critical thinking on the invisibility of certain working groups and labor ethics."
Verhoeven and a troupe of other performers are clothed in her trademark chaotic couture, acting as oompa loompa-like bathroom attendants whom visitors must pass to enter the toilet area. Bathroom-themed assemblages covered in toilet paper and featuring video art on tiny portable screens are scattered throughout the hall. Propagandistic illustrations of cleaning products decorate the walls, each stall's markings are bedazzled, and custom-made embroidered turds pepper the space. The toilets are clothed in retirement home-chic fabrics, and there are even artworks emblazoned inside their porcelain bowls. The artist herself can be found talking to visitors and, as one Instagrammer documented, intently peeling tampons from their wrappers.
With the discussion of trans bathroom access launching the loo into American politics, Verhoeven's destruction of all normalcy in the art fair's water closet is a surprisingly engaging political statement—a trend that also includes Maurizio Cattelan's solid gold toilet at the Guggenheim. We can only hope more art institutions figure out new ways to contemplate the commode as the discussion continues.