Bathroom Writing, an interactive anthology of inscriptions found in restrooms, is a virtual bathroom wall where visitors search posts through various filtering systems. Each post on the wall is cataloged through a variety of keywords, such as sex, writing implement, color, and theme. Information is then hidden and revealed based on decisions made by the visitor.
When I was younger I visited the same public restroom on a weekly basis. Each time I entered this space I was greeted with a poem, “Here I sit broken hearted/Paid a dime,/But only farted.” This poem puzzled me for many reasons. Why, for instance, did the man pay a dime? Who was the author of this limerick? And why did they take their time to anonymously write it on the bathroom wall?
There is something fascinating about public restrooms. Something in this dirty, smelly, and sticky place triggers a primal urge to voice feelings and sentiments unfit for cleaner more civil environments. In his study on walls and graffiti, Psychologist Harvey Lomas points out, “it is an undisputed fact that throughout history, wherever and whenever men have contact with walls, graffiti appear.”
Oftentimes I find myself amused, baffled, and even horrified by the literature posted in public restrooms. Messages range from harmless questions to malicious racial sentiments. In many cases conversations and heated debates are sparked. In one case I found this peculiar message (Note each quote represents a new writer):
“Haruki Murakami writes beautiful novels”
“Your gay cousin probably knows how to spell ‘you’re'”
“You’re = You + are (contraction), Your = possessive meaning ‘belonging to you,’ Youri = popular name in Slavic cultures”
Bathroom Writing provides an opportunity to explore the raw and unfiltered communication only found on bathroom walls. They can be funny, shocking, juvenile, and dirty, but when collected together in one space, it is clear that all are unique.