Mark Ferem is onto a strong concept. For several years he has been photographing and writing about the graffiti found in restrooms across America, Mexico, and Canada, finding that these tiny repositories of space isolate potential writers, giving them momentary privacy to pen their thoughts and perceptions and flailings and political strider and sexual leanings. The result of this preoccupation is a book that is not only a well designed photography survey of latrines ('latrinalia') but it is also a sensitive study of the needs of those who elect to decorate the walls during those private moments of waiting for nature to take its course.
Amir H. Fallah introduces the book with an essay in which lines such as these arise: 'Usually the scrawls and doodles in the bathrooms don't reveal anything profound or life altering. They are simply messages and images written and drawn anonymously in the safety of the bathroom stall'...'They capture moments in time where individuals left their marks for the rest of us to see, binding us all together by the simple fact that we all have to go to the bathroom.'
Ferem then introduces his project with some personal wisdom as to why people write what they write and then proceeds to divide his book into sections: Introduction (The Wall) 'Latrinalists believe that there is no ascension without dissension'; Men's Room 'If Pro is Progress, what is Con?'; Women's Room; Uni-Sex; Politikal Asylum (sic); Apokalupsis Now (sic); and Random Firing Neurons. Of course each of these chapters are groundings for some superb photographs, taken in all manner of light and from angles that would challenge the finest fine art photographer. Close-ups of lines of wisdom or folly, images of very well drawn graffiti, and color-smeared filthy walls that bespeak of layer upon layer of thoughts and emotional outlets - all provide laughs and thoughts and serve as a nidus for philosophizing.
In the end Mark Ferem invites us all to add to his ongoing project of latrinalia. 'Bathroom graffiti elevates the common moment and its intention...The spirit of latrinalia may not be in the words and images but in the consciousness in which it is written.' It makes for an intriguing book, a photographic odyssey that is produced and designed in the highest quality as an art book. And it makes us curious...Grady Harp, January 07
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About the reviewer
Grady Harp (gradyharp)
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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If youve ever used a public restroom, chances are youve read some bathroom graffiti, or at least noticed it. Often bawdy, funny and smart, sometimes illegible, it is a ubiquitous means of expression found across the United States and all over the world. Do the private, intimate moments in the bathroom provide people the opportunity to freely express themselves, leaving little nuggets of truth and insight for the next user? If you ask Mark Ferem, the answer is yes. Ferem has spent the past several years collecting and compiling photographs of exceptional bathroom graffiti, making for the perfect bathroom book. Divided up into thematic sections like "Mens Rooms," "Womens Rooms," "Art" and "Politics," unlike other graffiti books, the examples in Bathroom Graffiti are not so much about graffiti as an art form as much as they are about graffiti as the result of personal expression, which will never find its way into galleries or ad campaigns.