Toilet Art Project Generates Discussion During City Anniversary Event Report
• Dada-esque Commodes Derided as Potential Butt of Jokes
BY BILL KOENEKER
The Malibu City Council agenda item this week was ostensibly on getting council approval for the use of Legacy Park for the upcoming 20th anniversary of Malibu's cityhood.
However, it rapidly turned into a discussion about the artwork proposed as part of the festivities.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich told council members she wanted to organize a community art project much like the event that took place on the city's 16th birthday party.
She said the limited dollars and resources available nowadays prompted she and others to come up with an art project entitled the "Porcelain Project."
"We are using the toilet seats and urinals from the Malibu Library as the art project," Conley Ulich said, as she held up an actual toilet seat from the library.
The proposal will transform 20 pieces of porcelain restroom fixtures (sinks, urinals, and toilets) that have been recycled from the library reconstruction project and make them into "works of art."
However, Councilmember Lou La Monte cautioned, "The concept of dealing with the porcelain, if you will excuse the expression, will be the butt of every joke," he said.
La Monte noted the city is currently on a mission to change the image of Malibu such as the hiring of a press information officer.
"We are trying to upgrade our image. I'm cautioning you," he added.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal discussed another art program. "The other thing about the art program was the old photos. We found a Facebook page of old pictures [of Malibu]," she said.
"To take art like that, it is creative, it shows about recycling."
Conley Ulich said the history and future of Malibu has been and is connected with sewers.
"The city was founded because we did not want sewers in Malibu to control growth. It is the very representation of history and fate of Malibu. The toilet is an integral part of our city," she explained.
"We were thinking of how we could do something. We came up with the toilets and urinals. We can help heal the city and do what Marcel Duchamp [did] in his seminal piece of the Dada movement," Conley Ulich said.
"When we talked about it some people were embarrassed."
Conley Ulich suggested that the 20 pieces of art could be displayed at Malibu City Hall and at the Landon Center or other locations for a limited period of time, before being auctioned off through eBay or another process on or around Earth Day—April 22. The proceeds of the sale would be used to help build the proposed Civic Center wastewater treatment plant.
Conley Ulich said she has gotten some artists and celebrities involved.
"David Ashwell has agreed to do a piece," she said. "Catherine Oxenberg is doing a royal throne. We have gone to other celebrities who would like to participate. Some want to do their own art," she added.
The city reportedly received extra points from the environmental architecture program LEED—Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design—for the plan to repurpose the bathroom fixtures.
The council agreed the city could display the 28 pieces of children's art it recently received from the art contest along with other photographs of Malibu at city hall for a limited time.
Mayor John Sibert said he wanted it to be clear that the only action the council was taking was approving Legacy Park as the location for the city's 20th anniversary bash.