1. Public toilets, private affairs
In the closet of History, cottages are filthy. In the slang of the last century, the cottage (la tasse in french), was the old public toilet. Installed in public spaces in a time when hygiene mattered, urinals were meant to meet the physiological needs of the male population. But secretly, cottages also addressed a social need. Men with “perverted morals” laid the cornerstones of cottage living.
Opened in 2018 at the Schwules Museum in Berlin, Marc Martin’s exhibition creates a bridge between generations and invites contemporary art to enter a dialogue with the past: “Urinals have always had a bad reputation. They are more synonymous with shame than pride within the LGBTQI+ community. Those who cruised in there have often been accused of being cowardly, de- scribing their encounters in these public places as sordid. But didn’t they, for over a century, dare to confront pleasures defended by the law? I wish these men could be credited with a certain courage. I would like to bring back to these places their troubling sensual past”.
Instead of political correctness, the artist Marc Martin favours human and social truth. He advocates the visibility of sexuality in all its diversity. The artist also reminds us that in some countries, even today, homosexuality is still forbidden. Cottages (or tasses), these anonymous places of passage, will carry on their role of clandestine hideout.
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The exhibition “Les Tasses” will open to the public on 18th September, until 3rd October 2020 at LaVallée. The exhibition is organised by LaVallée-Smart in collaboration with the Schwules Museum Berlin and the RainbowHouse (as part of the PrideFestival Brussels).
2. Gender Trouble
Women probably never enjoyed the benefits of these amenities designed by men and for men exclusively. Yet, some of them had at a very early stage campaigned for gender equality in toilets, although their demands were never noted. In 19th-century cities, taking a piss was first and foremost a man’s business – which takes us back to the outset of feminism and the question of gender. The pissoir, a patriarchal symbol as well as a symbol of the oppressed, sent the codes waltzing.
Why are these little monuments, designed to answer urgent calls of nature and lining our streets, reserved to men’s sole use? Why are women, who are men’s equals before nature, not their equals at the eyes of the administration?
Early city planners seemed to think that these ladies would not urinate outside their homes, thus reducing their role to fleeting passers-by in the city. For reasons of safety and decorum, the few mixed structures where women could also give in to their pressing needs were fee-paying places, often kept within parks and department stores.
To ensure that their experience was as comfortable as possible, they could rely on toilet attendants looking after the facility (themselves managed by clever businessmen), and ultimately replaced by coin-operated turnstiles. Now, we call them Sanisettes by JCDECAUX.
3. About Marc Martin
Marc Martin (1971) is a French photographer and videographer.
He explores the visibility of sexual minorities and claims a freedom to express – explicit or not – a diversity of practices. By confronting the notions of beauty and repulsion, of good and bad taste, he readjusts the level of tolerance, including the LGBTQI* community.
4. Good to know
Rue Adolphe Lavallée 39,
1080 Molenbeek-Saint Jean, Brussels
Free Exhibition (FR. Nl. EN.)
18.09 / 3.10.2020
Open from 12.30 to 19.00.
Night hours on Saturdays and Sundays.
Closed on Mondays.
Private Preview 17.09 / 17:00 – 22:00
Opening Weekend 18-19-20.09.2020
The health of visitors and the team is important to LaVallée-Smart and the Pride Festival. In order to guarantee a visit to the exhibition in the greatest safety, the sanitary measures in force will be carefully applied.