In a short time the class came up with a collaborative plan as to what the bathroom means to everyone. As part of our study of the way social environments shape identity formation, the students of ARTH 295 Gender & Display were asked to transform the bathroom on the second floor of Houghton House in a manner that expresses some of their collective feelings toward this space. The result is an interactive installation addressing themes of anxiety and body dysmorphia as well as reflection and relaxation. The students worked collaboratively to interrogate the ways that the various forms of self-evaluation that occur in the space of the bathroom, rather than private and potentially shameful, are actually shared and illustrate some of the socio-cultural norms around identity, gender in particular, that are collectively forged and, thus, can and should be collectively confronted.
First Step: Figuring out what signifgance and importance the bathroom iss to students. Everyone had to write a short essay of what the space means to him or her.
Second Step: Pulling themes from the student’s essays. Particular themes like childhood, anxiety, preparation, and relaxation are common throughout the class.
Third Step: Brainstorming ideas and gathering inspiration from previous projects other colleges have done.
Fourth Step: Focusing on what should be changed in the bathroom. For example: mirror, bathtub, and cabinet.
Fifth Step: Coming up with a list of people who wanted to work on certain projects and gathering a list of supplies.
Sixth Step: The class had realized that by breaking a mirror and placing it adjacent to the cabinet mirror would allow the viewer to see a morphed image of them. There is a prompt on the outside mirror of the cabinet that is meant to represent the physical appearance that many people use for judging which is why the mirror also says “We see the outside.. What’s on the inside?” and “Open Me” to encourage the viewers to engage with the project.
Seventh Step: Filling the cabinet with pill bottles and products. The first row is meant to express how consuming beauty culture can be, which is why it is the bigger pill bottle. Students were asked to write down something that they felt beauty culture effected them with, or what they had to control in order to fit societies norms. The second row contains mental pressures, whereas the third shelf expresses the physical stress that takes a toll on people’s bodies. Inside the viewers are faced with another prompt that says “What affects you doesn’t define you,” “Drop a bead in the bottle to uncap your feelings.” The inside cabinet pills are also meant to portray the characteristics that can’t be physically seen. In the end the class hopes that the pill bottles will be full of everyone’s feelings.
Eightieth Step: Beauty culture collage. In order to fully finish the inside cabinet students used popular culture magazines as a way to show how consuming and persuasive advertisements can be.
Ninth: Making the bathtub look comfy. There should be a “Do Not Sit” sign because it looks so dreamy. Lights were embedded in the stuffing in order to give the tub an ambient vibe. As much as a bathroom can be stressful because of primping, there is always a way to let go by taking a soothing bath.
Tenth Step: Inserting sharps container. The concept for the box was to replace a dry-erase board or post-it wall of comments. “We live in a toxic world filled with pressures to uphold certain standards of beauty. Please discard your biggest anxieties of self-image on the form of the provided sticky notes through the top disposal, leaving them in this space anonymously. You can then depart from this bathroom being liberated from the societal pressures of beauty that are a part of your daily life, instead being free to discover your inner worth on your own.”
You are not alone!! Stop by the bathroom and see who else is with you!
Brianna Arnold Bailey Carter
Dori Craig Sky Drazek
Elizabeth Feingold Genesis Gonzalez
Sarah Ingraham Taylor Levin
Maddie MacDowell Maggie Maloy
Kaitlyn McNamara Talia Meyer-Bosse
Kate Moreau Fiona Mulholland
Chris Nabors Natalie Powers
Sarah Pullman Sarah Savitz
Rebekah Skovron Johanna Slicklen
Lily Smith Kristine Vann
Alex Vernon Angelique Syzmanek