Runes (1984)

A 3-screen audio-visual, projected transparencies, with stereo soundtrack of water sounds recorded in toilets. Artist Project commissioned by the Auckland Art Gallery.

Also presented as an installation in a cave-like darkened room, the images as colour photocopies fixed on walls and ceiling, with continuous stereo soundtrack. Commissioned by the Wellington City Art Gallery.

The cubicle of a public toilet – a public place, and, from time to time, an intimately private space. The decision to ‘make one’s mark’ on a wall suggests a primitive instinct, like prehistoric handprints. ‘I WAS HERE’. For a man this can be an image of his penis, often boastfully erected. Men draw images of women’s vaginas, perhaps in search of sexual arousal. Words, phrases, sentences, sometimes whole paragraphs, drawn with various materials. Content covers a gambit from swear words and pornographic jottings to racist and sexist provocations, requests for sexual assignations, witticisms, through to invitations of an exchange of views, or requests for anonymous advice. Interactions and responses are not uncommon, friendly and sympathetic, or aggressive and angry. Efforts were sometimes made to erase or obliterate a previous message.

Walls of harder materials can be of greater or lesser resistance to written messages. To achieve some permanence metal must be scraped, other surfaces carved into.

This project explored walls predominantly, though not exclusively, of male toilets, in and around Wellington city. The film used was Kodak vericolour reversal film. The image was then recopied into negative, using the same film, producing bizarre colours.