No Privacy


Bay area artist Lucas Murgida in Ghent, Belgium. Video here. Here’s the artist’s statement:

I added a mirror to 2 of the public/private male urinals in the city of Gent. Passers-by will get to share in the joy of public urination as a unwitting man relieves himself.

Many people assume that they have a right to certain degree of privacy in public places. As we move about there is a tendency to view our public surroundings as potential places where we can assert our sovereign nature. For instance a person might go behind a tree, hide in a shadow, go down an alley, or squat under a bridge to seek public solitude. In parks people lay claim to a patch of earth by unfolding a blanket and spreading it on the ground. Construction zones and yellow “caution” tape steer the public away from certain areas to create temporary private spaces. Cities even build places like phone booths and bathroom stalls for its citizens to enjoy private moments. As technology advances citizens ever increasingly walk around enraptured in the bubble of their cell phones. And, if a person is of a more pensive disposition, he or she might find their public/private moments walking, staring at the ground, while lost deep in thought. Public privacy can also exist on a subtler, subconscious level as we are taught from a young age to ignore certain public occurrences. The drunken man passed out on the ground or the beggar asking for change at the bus stop might appear to us no different than a tree or a lamppost as we make our way to work in the morning.When we stare past the woman being arrested by the police or ignore the man weeping on his stoop we effectively give the person who is having a public/private moment the privacy of our ambivalence. But, regardless of how the privacy manifests, it can only exist through an unspoken social contract that permits a person the right to assert and create his or her own overt or subconscious public privacy. And, despite the complicated game that manifests as a result of this silent agreement, most of us intuitively know that public/privacy is an illusion and a creation of man. There is no privacy.

For more information about Murgida see here and here.

One thought on “No Privacy

  1. No offense, Mr. Ozeri, but I find this Murgida treatise a crock of shit, especially: “unspoken social contract that permits a person the right to assert and create his or her own overt or subconscious public privacy.”

    Nothing ‘permits a person the right to assert and create his or her own…’ etc., they just either do it or they don’t. I find that performance artists would actually like to get even more pretentious in the publicity than they already are. This is the kind of shit you’d read in ArtForum or Flash back in the 80s, and only a few performance artists actually have truly impressed me; they are always the ones who really get out on stage and pull all the stops out, like Karen Finley, one of the ‘NEA 4’, or whatever those 4 were called back in the early 90s when Giuliani and Jesse Helms were trying to clean up art as well as ticketing people for putting a single piece of personal garbage in a public trash can, or even putting their feet on a vacant subway seat.

    “I added a mirror to 2 of the public/private male urinals in the city of Gent. Passers-by will get to share in the joy of public urination as a unwitting man relieves himself.”

    He should be arrested for this, and obviously only did it because he wanted to cruise pissers without having to take the fall for it.

    I’ve seen tons of stupid performance artists, even Tim Miller wasn’t that great (also one of the NEA 4), but I do recommend Karen Finley, who is a dynamo: in 2004, she did a piece in SoHo here called ‘George and Martha’, which was about a regular tryst at a hot-sheet motel with George W. Bush and Martha Stewart, and it was so funny I thought I was going to have to go to the ER I laughed so hard. Karen was nude the whole time, with a black whore-lingerie outfit painted onto her. At the end, as she was contemplating her Martha Stewart prison stay (I purposely chose the perf. that was the night before Martha was sent to jail in the morning), she did an alphabetical show-stopper about all the appliances and ingredients she had and was totally expert at using. this was done at a shrieking decibel level, and I never heard such a fantastic business in my life.

    Well, maybe this post was meant more to be about privacy, with that ponderous ending ‘there is no privacy’, which had just immediately been effectively pre-cancelled out by
    “public/privacy is an illusion and a creation of man”, because he doesn’t bother to also remind us, even were that true as well, that ‘there is no public’. But if either are the ‘creation of man’, they certainly do exist somehow. Sorry to be so negative, maybe the guy’s a genius, but from his thrilling installations here, he just sounds pretty run-of-the-mill and ‘mirror queens’ are actually a commonplace in the cruising grounds of cities, I’ve read about them all the time, and they’re always voyeurs who infuriate the active participants. There are a number of popular hotel rendezvous men’s rooms that frequently post complaints about ‘mirror trolls’ in stalls. So here we have someone who’s turned a low practice into art. Ho hum, I wonder if he gets funding for his obviously illegal activities.

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