Public Toilets / Private Affairs

Diving into the secretive rendezvous held in public toilets, exploring an aspect that has often been swept under the carpet by the community itself.

I’ve always been attracted to imaginary worlds on the edges, urban phantoms, and fantasies. Public toilets fit all these categories of pleasure. However, public toilets have historically been banned from the “official” LGBTQ+ narrative.

Erected in the wake of 19th-century hygiene movements to meet male natural needs, they soon started to satisfy other, more sexual needs. For men in search of their sexual identity, public urinals were the starting point for numerous relationships. I want my work to fight preconceived notions and reveal this hidden memory.

After experiencing my own night of fun in a public urinal of my hometown—which later turned into a foundational moment of my own sexual emancipation—I was devastated to learn it was destroyed by pickaxes and shovels the next day. Ever since, I’ve felt an ensuing emptiness that has given way to aesthetics that inhabit my imagination and my work.

The men who met there were often considered as cowards; their encounters branded as depraved. Yet, in an environment hostile to diversity, they braved what was out of reach and dared to savour pleasures forbidden to them by law. I have sought to put social and sexual practices back at the heart of the urinals, focusing on the determination they implied and the energy they generated.

Places bear memories. When places disappear, the memories are endangered and must be preserved—even if they are on the fringes of the approved memory.

Homosexual practices remain criminal in many countries. There, public toilets still play their role as secret shelters. My work pays tribute to those men who have no other choice but to live out their impulses out of sight, in places that are said to be creepy.

Visit the PUBLIC TOILETS / PRIVATE AFFAIRS exhibition in 3D at the Schwules Museum.

Photography by

Marc Martin