Natalie Bishton Directions for Use

  • Tauira / Student
    Natalie Bishton
  • Kaiako / Lecturers
    Meg Rollandi, Sven Mehzoud

Directions for Use is a series of performative investigations that address dirty spaces while reflecting on rituals of maintenance and upkeep. Beginning with the mouth and the toilet as the site, these explorations utilise performance as a data collection tool alongside spatial mapping strategies to consider the relationship between the body and space. Materials used in the performance are preserved and displayed, creating a catalogue of these perpetual maintenance rituals.

The brief required a response to a research project, investigating the relationship between spatial environments and the body. Particularly, how design is used to facilitate and encourage widely accepted ‘social’ behaviour and regulate the ‘clean’ body. Focusing on hygiene spaces such as the bathroom, and the materials specific to this place, has allowed for a thorough investigation into the social narratives of body maintenance and upkeep.

Engaging with the spatial practise of performance, this designed response moves past understanding these bodily practises, and into a realm of critiquing them. Tools and materials used in cleansing and maintenance are charged with narratives for use, both unspoken and directed. Initial mapping strategies began to use these materials, the body, and the toilet together in non-conventional and uncomfortable ways in order to disrupt these narratives. Eventually the investigations began to become specific to sites of entry and exit, comparing the toilet’s opening and the mouth.

The final outcomes of these performative investigations are curated into an exhibition ‘Directions for Use’, housed at the Wellington City Gallery. This exhibition makes many references to archival, western practises of knowledge preservation. An absurd attempt to rationalise the non-sensical and irrational acts as a final layer of critique, using ‘prestigious’ display and preservation mechanisms that keep the audience at arm’s length. This distance and over-rationalisation draws attention to the way we distance ourselves from our dirty bodies and the practises that establish our clean and socially acceptable identities. The outcome hopes to reconnect the audience to their bodies, and the spaces in which they regulate them.