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Brief Interruptions in the Waste Stream

Future Farmers explore the absurdities and complexities of everyday life in their art and design installations.

Design-types have been veering toward the scatalogical this past month. Architizer hosted NYC’s Worst Bathroom Contest. The Acumen Fund announced the winners of its competition, Sanitation is Sexy: Make it Obvious. And San Francisco’s Center for the Book presented the exhibition, "Erratum: Brief Interruptions in the Waste Stream," in which Future Farmers (aka Amy Franceschini and Michael Swaine) take sledgehammers to a toilet and reform the detritus into bricks.

Taking on indoor plumbing, that most essential element of a civilized home, indoor plumbing, Future Farmers' project is, as eco-architect Sim Van Der Ryn muses in his book "The Toilet Papers," is an interesting conceptual stew they’re cooking up: "a pinch of punk violence in taking the sledgehammers to toilets; a soupçon of aesthetic magic in making exquisite gleaming white lozenges out of the homely appliances; a hint of street radical chic as in bricks flying through the air; and a dash of reference to Duchamp’s urinal and its permanent demystification of the art object."

In other words, the pair is challenging the many absurdities inherent in indoor plumbing such as the ridiculous insistence on using drinking water to flush waste. And the somewhat precious porcelain bricks (shown below in the gallery) that result from the demolition? Says Franceschini, "You," the audience, can put this brick in the back of your toilet to save water or repave the streets with white bricks to reverse climate change..."

The questioning of the stuff of everyday life is Future Farmers' obsession, as seen in previous works like "Shoelace Exchange" (2005) which explored the vanishing art of shoemaking. This spring, they'll continue their explorations of the sole (and the soul) by bringing a cobbler's bench, materials and the makings of a shoemaker's atelier into the Guggenheim Museum, an institution more typically devoted to the pursuits of the extremely well-heeled.

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