Trash to Treasure in a 12x12

Dearest Poopers, Are old clothes cluttering up your closets? Make room for meaning Aug. 27-Sept 1!

Here's the skinny...

WHAT: The 12x12 Project WHERE: First Park, 33 East 1st Street (at the corner of Houston and 2nd Ave) WHEN: Aug. 27-Sept. 1, 12-7pm. Rain or shine! WHY: We all need more room, right? Especially in our tiny NYC apartments, and especially for FASHION! But even Oprah knows that we're already making do with less, wearing 20% of our wardrobes 80% of the time.

If there's one thing poop can teach us, it's that when we let stuff go, we create space for something new to come in. So come out of the closet, get it off your chest, and bring The Puru your unused clothes! Sit in the shade of the 12x12. Take a rest, drink some sun tea, and we'll make something new.

I'll be turning old t-shirts into yarn strips, and inviting you and passersby to join me in latch hooking small patches of rug. It's super easy! Each patch is just 12 squares across by 12 squares up and down, so it doesn't take long. I'll spend the last day hooking all the patches together in a colorful expression of community cohesion. And we'll party that Sunday (9/1) from 5-7pm!

All clothes and textiles not turned into yarn will be donated to Wearable Collections for resale or re-purposing.

How did this all happen?!

In 2010, World Policy Institute Senior Fellow William Powers wrote a book called Twelve by Twelve: A One-Room Cabin Off the Grid & Beyond the American Dream, inspired by the story of a North Carolina pediatrician who renounced modern luxury to live on the land and off the grid. This tiny cottage got people asking: how much is enough? (More about the project's development and future plans HERE.)

The 12x12

Soon artists Simon Draper (from Habitat for Artists) and Betsy Damon, among others, were brought in to design and build a simple structure that could live in New York City. Throughout July, a swarm of artists created installations amongst the bees at the Queens Botanical Garden. Now the 12x12's come to roost in Manhattan until Sept. 1, in beautiful First Park.

See below for a full description of the artists, curated by WPI and Fourth Arts Block. Check back here for updates on the latch hook project as it evolves, and then come check it out in person! I look forward to seeing you there.

Yours in balance,

Shawn "The Puru" Shafner

OUR PARTNERS

The World Policy Institute

The World Policy Institute is a center for global thought leadership focused on emerging challenges, thinkers, and solutions. World Policy Journal, fellows, events, policy development and media outreach, provide a forum for solution-directed policy analysis and debate from a global perspective.

https://fabnyc.org/images/fab4home.pngFourth Arts Block

Fourth Arts Block (FAB) is a non-profit organization founded in 2001 by cultural and community groups to establish and advance the East 4th Street Cultural District, between 2nd Avenue and Bowery. FABnyc is partnering on the 12×12 exhibition at First Park as part of their SUSTAIN project, with generous support from the Rockefeller Foundation Cultural Innovation Fund: www.fabnyc.org/sustainability.php

wc_logo(clothing recycling)Wearable Collections

Wearable Collections creates hubs of collections that make it as easy for New Yorkers to recycle textiles as it is to recycle cans, bottles and papers. We keep clothing out of landfills while raising money for charitable organizations.

AUGUST SCHEDULE

August 6 -11, 2013: Presented by WPI, NYC-based artist Ivy Haldeman will use the 12 x 12 as a space to reflect on the aesthetics of darkness as an indirect means of living sustainably. In opposition to a mentality of 24/7 activity, Ivy will make the 12 x 12 into a place for napping and rest.

August 13 – 18, 2013: Presented by FABnyc, Mario Chamorro, Catalina Parra, and Pablo Gnecco of The Happiness Lab will create social experiments through art within the 12×12 space in order to explore and visualize how people use their own happiness to develop sustainable communities.

August 20 – 25, 2013: Presented by WPI, musician Jonathan Koh will compose music in the 12×12 space, using a combination of classical techniques and synthesizers. His work will contemplate how music can help the listener engage with space and reflect on smart consumption in a small space.

August 27 – September 1, 2013: Presented by FABnyc, NYC-based performance artist Shawn Shafner invites visitors to create their own square patch of latch hook rug, 12 rows across and 12 columns up and down. The last day of the project, the squares will be sewn together, creating a vibrant patchwork and an expression of community collaboration.

The Poop of the Pious

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

In the last post, we hypothesized how Oprah’s poop could save the world by toppling the tower of celebrity and reminding us that—prince or pauper—we’re all cut from the same fleshy cloth. This time, we share a few examples of how what drops from our bottoms can raise us to the top.

In the classic Australian film, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, three urban drag queens hit the road in a big, pink bus (the eponymous Priscilla) to traverse the Outback and find true love. In one scene, Adam/Felicia (played by Guy Pearce) relays to Bernadette (Terence Stamp) how he came upon the contents of a certain locket, described as, “my most treasured possession in the whole wide world.”

ADAM: Well, a few years ago, I went on a pilgrimage backstage after an ABBA concert hoping to grab an audience with Her Royal Highness Agnetha. Well, when I saw her dashing into the ladies loo, naturally I followed her in. And after she'd finished her business I ducked into the cubicle only to find she'd left me a little gift, sitting in the toilet bowl.

BERNADETTE: What are you telling me? This is an ABBA turd?

Exactly. What could be better? If Agnetha truly is a Goddess, then she’s a Goddess through and through, down to the last drop.

J.D. Salinger's Toilet seat up for auction

J.D. Salinger's Toilet seat up for auction

There’s nothing new to the idea that an object’s value can change just from coming into contact with somebody important. Many religious pilgrimages revolved around this idea. The faithful still travel across the world to touch something that was once touched by someone else, thus making themselves holier by touching it, too. (For more information, check out this great article on religious relics.) As celebrities have come to rival religious figures, they also now possess this power. This explains why J.D. Salinger’s toilet might actually be worth a million dollars—your butt can absorb his talent right through the seat.

St. Christopher's Cranium

St. Christopher's Cranium

But why settle for Salinger's toilet seat when you could have, say, a piece of the very butt cheek that made it holy? Why, merely brushing up against it could cure writer’s block forever! After the 7th century, the practice of collecting bodily relics grew to be extremely popular, as Saints were put on the chopping block and exported piece by piece to churches across Europe. Even before they’ve passed on, however, the pious provide for us in their poo.

The next three examples all come from John G. Bourke’s thick compendium, Scatologic Rites of All Nations.

There’s power held deep within Jesus of Nazareth's nappies (pieces of which can still be viewed at the Dubrovnik Cathedral in Croatia): “When the Lady Saint Mary had washed the swaddling clothes of the Lord Christ and hanged them out to dry upon a post…a certain boy…possessed with the devil, took down one of them and put it upon his head. And presently the devils began to come out of his mouth and fly away in the shape of crows and serpents. And from this time the boy was healed by the power of the Lord Christ.”

He’s all man, and all medicine: “…the author wishes to say that in his personal notes and memoranda can be found references to one of the medicine-men of the Sioux who assured his admirers that everything about him was ‘medicine’, even his excremement, whichcould be transmuted into copper cartridges.”

The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama can stave off trauma: “Rosinus Lentilius, in the Ephemeridum Physico-Medicorum, Leipsig, 1694, speaks of he Grand Lama of Thibet as held in such high veneration by the devotees of his faith that his excrements, carefully collected, dried, powdered, and sold at high prices by the priests, were used as a sternutatory powder, to induce sneezing, and as a condiment for their food, and as a remedy for all the graver forms of disease.”

Does this mean we should be petitioning our local religious figures for sacred stool samples? Probably not. According to Cacas: The Encyclopedia of Poo

A hundred years ago, rumors that the feces of the Dalai Lama—the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists—had beneficial properties prompted the UK’s Surgeon General to analyze them in the interests of science. They contained nothing remarkable, he concluded. Just as well: According to a spokesperson at the UK-based Tibet Foundation, “These days you can’t even buy the Dalai Lama’s used clothes, never mind his excrement.”

But perhaps one day you'll be lucky enough to follow His Holiness into the House of Ease, and grab yourself a relic to rival ABBA.  Until then, here’s to your health! And as always, peaceful pooping.

Shawn "The Puru" Shafner

Celebrity Scat

I am happy to announce that we are now beginning to release some of the footage from our highly acclaimed World Toilet Day New York event this past November 19th, 2011.  For your viewing pleasure, I give you Ms. Megan Gerlach and Mr. Justin Lang, "Nerds and Turds." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyxLJNDSv-M

In other celebrity news, Oprah poops. I understand that this may not qualify as news.  Oprah and her creation, Dr. Oz, are pioneers in promoting poop-positive TV programming.  Nonetheless, it turns out that Oprah's own fame has forced her to become what Dave Praeger, in his book Poop Culture, describes as a 'shameful shitter.'  More on that soon.

In the clip, she says:

"This is me, who does not take public bowel movements, okay?  I am not gonna go, like, Number 2 in a regular... (Someone else: "In a stall...")  Oh my God, no."

At first I was offended.  Perhaps it was the tangible disgust and horror in her tone, or her choice of the word "regular," as if her derriere deserved much better.  Poop, like death, is a great equalizer; you can eat from a diner, a dumpster, or a deluxe 12-course banquet, but then the lines blur into a mighty blast of brown.  Of course, money can buy you a nicer place to deposit your doo.  $6,000 recently bought American Idol host Ryan Seacrest a luxurious birthday bidet (the gift that keeps on giving), while in the developing world, only the wealthy can afford the privacy of a home toilet.  So what about privacy for the super rich and famous?

Oprah continues:

"[laughing]...the only thing anybody's going to do is go home and say, 'Guess who was in the bathroom today?'  No!"

And you know she's right.  Oprah can poop in a public potty just like anybody else, but it could just make 'the splash heard round the world.'  Sure, your curry vindaloo explosion might make you the office laughingstock by the end of the day, but by the end of her day, the lady who's iPhone recorded Oprah playing the butt trumpet would have her own reality TV show on Fox.  The audio clip, in equal parts delightful and disgusting, would be downloaded in droves and remixed for the dance floor, hitting the pop charts and the elevators at Harpo, reaping royalties for Oprah long after the reality star had faded.  At least that's what I think; you can see Jimmy Kimmel's take in the video below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cD2DUmDbeQ4

The Urban Dictionary (clearly an irrefutable source of accurate information...) defines Dave Praeger's "shameful shitter" as someone who, "will hold it in for hours before daring to go into a public restroom."  If they must use the toilet, "they will do it in a continued state of terror and anxiety that someone will come in and smell their aroma or hear their farts..."

While we all know somebody who talks regularly about their colon health and strolls into the bathroom proudly carrying a newspaper, most of us struggle with shameful shitting to a greater or lesser degree. We might walk in to an occupied bathroom and pretend to be there just washing our hands, or tell the date who's been waiting at the table that it only took us so long because the restroom line was unusually long.  We're worried that someone will find out what we all already know, that as pretty and put together as we may look, all sorts of icky things ooze out of us once the door's been closed.  We deny poop because, as the "dirtiest" object with the lowest status, it has the magical, Midas-like power to pollute and bring down whatever it touches.  When the pedestal's been placed at celebrity height, the counterweight of poop can mean quite a fall.

Consider the case of Paris Hilton.  She made headlines in 2007 when she was sentenced to 45 days in prison for violating a reckless driving probation.  Three days into serving her term, and Paris wound up sedated in the medical wing after having refused to eat or drink since she arrived. Apparently the toilet was placed opposite a window through which the court guards could see everything. A Hilton insider quoted in the article reports, "'She was absolutely terrified that one of the guards or staffers would get her with the cell-phone cam and it would wind up on the Internet.'"

To be clear, you can find clips of Ms. Hilton in coitus with just a few clicks of your mouse.  Could the shame of someone (or the whole world) seeing you poop be that much worse?

Grimani Breviary- The Month of February (1490-1510)

Norbert Elias' classic text, The Civilizing Process, quotes old missives on manners to show the complex social maneuvering that first led Western Europeans to adopt now-common, "civilized" behaviors. Unlike Adam and Eve, who learned shame in the time it took to eat some fruit, humans 1,000 years ago had to be conditioned over time to look down on those who blow their snot onto their sleeve, eat with their fingers, or poop in the hallways.  Lest you accuse me of exaggeration, consider this passage culled from the Brunswick Court Regulations of 1589:

"Let no one, whoever he may be, before, at, or after meals, early or late, foul the staircases, corridors, or closets with urine or other filth, but go to suitable, prescribed places for such relief."

If it was necessary for someone to write this, obviously there was a problem.  But that's exactly it--these ideas are only obvious to you and me because society learned to be disgusted by such acts, and to shame those who committed them into seeking privacy for such things.  Modern society gives the responsibility of molding well-adjusted citizens to Mom and Dad, yet Community Led Total Sanitation programs are just now convincing rural communities in the developing world to feel shame and disgust over outdoor and/or public defecation. (For more information, read this article by The Last Taboo co-author Maggie Black.)

In reaction to our former animalism, we may have learned the rules a little too well, allowing for few shameless ways to shit.  But if Paris and Oprah ever want to ease their bowels, we may need to ease up on a cultural stigma in which we're all complicit.  We wind up shaming anyone who makes us aware that poop exists, paradoxically stoking people's interest through censorship, and thereby giving Oprah's poop the potential to make international news, whether she likes it or not.  But if Oprah pooped in a forest and everyone heard it, maybe we'd understand that she's really just like us.  And if we're all just like Oprah than we're all just like each other.  We'll beat swords into plowshares, doves will soar overhead, and Oprah's poop will leads us to an era of world peace.

Prosperous Pooping in this New Year,

Shawn "The Puru" Shafner

Picasso's dove