Arts·Artspots

From the archives: Take a bathroom break with artist Reece Terris

Don't worry, it's just urinal water. Enter the splash zone with Reece Terris, whose installation turned a public washroom into a champagne fountain.

Don't worry, it's just urinal water. Enter the splash zone with CBC's Artspots

From the archives: Take a bathroom break with artist Reece Terris

4 years ago
Duration 0:43
Don't worry, it's just urinal water. Enter the splash zone with Reece Terris, whose installation turned a public washroom into a champagne fountain.

Name: Reece Terris

Hometown: Vancouver

Artspots appearance: 2005

The story:

In 2004, a men's room at Simon Fraser University got a mind-bending renovation courtesy of Reece Terris, a Vancouver artist known for flipping the way people think about ordinary places and things. Five years later, for example, Terris built Ought Apartment, a six-storey apartment tower — fully furnished — inside the atrium of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

But the installation you'll see in this Artspots clip is called American Standard. Think Duchamp's Fountain, but this time with functioning waterworks, and the main attraction is a pyramid of 15 flushing urinals that endlessly flood the bathroom floor.

Despite the intentional plumbing fail, the bathroom was actually still operational. If visitors wanted to save their shoes, they could hop along some stepping stones to the sink and toilet, a feature that would probably be appreciated in most public toilets with or without fountain features.

Toilet humour. Scene from the Reece Terris episode of CBC's Artspots. (CBC)

When the CBC Artspots crew took a bathroom break with Terris, he shared some of his thoughts on the piece.

"The obvious association is Duchamp for the idea of taking a readymade object, putting it out in the world as art," he says in the video.

I like it when people go, 'It's terrible!' and leave, just as much as somebody goes and has a bath in there.- Reece Terris, artist- Reece Terris, artist

"The pyramid shape kind of evokes the stacked champagne glasses like high society, puts it in a super low-brow context."

"I like it when people go, 'It's terrible!' and leave, just as much as somebody goes and has a bath in there."

The last time he saw his Artspots episode:

Terris wrote CBC Arts by email: "I haven't watched it recently. It's great having the excerpt on the website, though. When I do watch it, I always think I look a little unwashed and overly earnest. I'm always too hard on myself. I wish I was more eloquent when I see the clip. Still, I like my energy."

Memories from the shoot:

"I worked all night to get the lighting ready for the camera. Hence the unwashed look."

His favourite thing about the episode:

"I loved the surprise of it, the sound and feel of it as the falling water moved cold streams of air through the rooms and down the corridor. I loved how unexpected it was for most viewers and enjoyed taking in people's reaction to the work."

Reece Terris. Installation view of American Standard, 2004. (www.reeceterris.com)

What he's working on now:

The Ice Follies biennial art festival launches February 9 in North Bay, Ont., and Ferris is among a select number of artists who'll be installing work on the frozen surface of Lake Nipissing.

Inspired by the location, Terris's piece "The Darkhouse" is a riff on traditional ice-fishing huts, but the large dome he'll be building on the lake has been designed to melt away when the spring thaw hits. The event runs until February 20. Writes the artist: "Should be a great show!"

He's also developing a new piece of public art for the city of Burnaby, B.C.. According to Terris, its debut is scheduled for early 2019.

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