Writing on the Stall

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There is something about a bathroom wall that attracts anonymous conversation in the most intimate of ways. Questions, declarations, and advice pass between pantless strangers in these publicly private spaces- the writings are as naked and visceral as one would expect from a bathroom. Here, it is not surprising to encounter messages of scrawled sincerity, professions of love, tiny allegories of sexual fantasy, confessions, theories, personal philosophy and rebuttals- intermingling with a liberal sprinkling of scatological references. These collections represent a rather unbiased look into the feelings, ideas, desires, and fears that we hold dear enough to warrant committing a minor felony with your pants down- the inane, profane, mundane, and insane make up the social dialogue that is the bathroom wall.

What adorns the walls of the bathroom something of a visual and semiotic stream of conscious. Here, at Rochester Institute of Technology, the dialogue that one finds is of a fairly neurotic tone, one with more worries than irreverent commissions youth. One stall hosts an entry that reads, “If we had jobs, we wouldn’t be writing on these walls…” Another mentions the word JOBLESS, to which underneath has been noted in a different hand: CONSIDER “UNEMPLOYED” HERE, WORD USAGE. Finally, a third career-driven exchange in which a blue marker writes, “Leave it to the BioMed bathroom to have the least amount of graffiti. Where’s your creativity you lab fucks?” to which a black marker answers, “It got painted over, besides, we’re too busy getting jobs.” Where is the root of this fear? What is it that drives students to focus so much on competition and job, to make a semi-permanent public statement?
These statements show a less than subtle pressure, an overbearing sense of worry, and a focus not on craft, or education, or experimentation, but on a job.

During the first gathering of photo students in the Webb Auditorium the entire class was asked to look to the person on their left and the person on their right, these, we were told, would be graduates of the photography program who would not be photographing for a living. It is this first event sets the mood for the education and its accompanying fears, anxieties, crushed creativities, and bathroom wall musings.

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One Response to “Writing on the Stall”

  1. Bob Says:

    “These statements show a less than subtle pressure, an overbearing sense of worry, and a focus not on craft, or education, or experimentation, but on a job.”

    Not to mention the overbearing need to express ownership over these spaces, even (especially?) a mere 1×5 plot on a bathroom stall, is, in any manner, a likely product of said anxiety.

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