Do You Love Your Toilet Paper Holder? Probably Not, But At a New Show, There Are 50+ Reasons to Change Your Mind
Toilet paper holders are, as a general rule, kind of the worst. At their best, they’re highly functional but relatively boring to look at, all brushed nickels and polished chromes meant to match the rest of your hardware. At the other end of the spectrum, they can be aesthetically pleasing but kind of a pain (like this one, which I own, and is so annoying to change that half the time I don’t). They’re also generally a typology that isn’t much considered by contemporary designers, although that’s happily starting to change. That’s why it’s so heartening to see a whole exhibition devoted to them at Marta Los Angeles, on view from September 10 through November 1. Like so many everyday object shows before it, Under/Over — which features contributions from 53 studios — is both a cross-section of contemporary design, and a reflection of each designer’s practice.
Most designers went for simply updating the toilet paper holder’s looks. Some of our favorites? Joseph Algieri’s Crystal Pepsi’s Charmin Ultra, which forms anchors from translucent lumps of hot glue; BNAG’s ceramic “Toilet Tongue”; Fredrik Paulsen’s lilac and yellow tubes; Sabine Marcelis’s cast-resin halo; and Ryan Preciado’s powder-coated green floor piece, which holds not one but five rolls, neatly solving the problem of storage. Some designers addressed the functionality of the piece, including Jonah Takagi — whose holder features adjustable drag for a faster or slower pull and a self-centering mechanism that eradicates wobble — and WeShouldDoItAll, whose modified selfie stick provides a more sanitary resting place for your phone. Some designers ignored function completely and went for a more conceptual approach, including Daniel Eatock, whose toilet paper remains snugly trapped in its holder, and Peter Shire, who ignored the assignment entirely and submitted three gloriously speckle-painted toilet seats.
The funny thing is, redemption for toilet paper holders isn’t even the main thrust of this exhibition. Co-sponsored by the tree-free toilet-paper startup Plant Paper, Under/Over is meant to be a political statement, against both Big T.P.— which is, surprise surprise, run in part by Koch Industries — and the environmentally wasteful practice of cutting down trees and pumping the pulp full of toxic chemicals, as is so often the case. Say the curators: “Any hope for reversing the effects of this convention hinges on altering our relationship to toilet paper and its dispensing mechanisms.”
OOIEE (Matt Olson)
James Sterling Pitt
Chen Chen & Kai Williams
Ryan Belli & Terremoto