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Visit a Steaming Toilet

Katrina Taylor takes a walk on the Ancoats wildside with the Peeps Project.

Published on March 27th 2007.


Visit a Steaming Toilet

Mad art can be fun art. Mad art can have meaning. Get yourself up to Ancoats to see how.

The area in question lies on the wrong side of Great Ancoats Street. This used to be home to the thriving cotton industry and the working population that went with it. That show left town a long time ago. The Ancoats we know these days is in transition, old housing to the west, mills refurbed into apartments to the east, most still waiting for people to move in.

Visiting the Peep Project was the first time I’d crossed the line into the beaten up land beyond. Confidential colleague Lynda Moyo and I weren’t really sure what to expect.

Eventually we came across Dan Dubowitz the artist, a four square vision in luminous orange. He welcomed us at the entrance to his studio before sending us off to explore Ancoats with a sweet guide by the name of Pickle, very arty, who promised us a steaming toilet. Dubowitz has been working in Ancoats producing ‘civic works’ since 2004. He divides his time between rural Italy and a rundown back alley in Manchester and loves both. The Peep Project is one of the results of that work, others have included Ancoats Stories, videoed interviews with the locals. These are magical, grab them on www.civicworks.net

We set off towards the aforementioned steaming toilet, a little unsure of what exactly we were about to see. Looking through the peep – a steel cylinder cut through the buildings and structures – we saw a brick room, cubicle size, full of steam with plants growing on the walls.

Pickle took our questions in his stride, explaining how the project aimed to make use of what was already there, rather than knocking things down to replace them with the more common option of a statue – hence ‘civic works’ not public art.

Pickle was called away and Mary took over. Part way through Mary was literally overcome with passion about the project. She wept. Honest. Noting our discussion about whether or not some of the things in the peeps were really there or not, she told us that was exactly the point. “Some people are either like “WOW” or completely blank to it, if you are open to it, it opens up a whole new dimension and an arena for debate.” At that point we were currently hovering somewhere between the two.

"Some people are either like "WOW" or completely blank to it, if you are open to it, it opens up a whole new dimension."

The more Mary humoured us by answering our questions no matter how daft or forthright, the more involved we began to feel. “Without things like this there would be no roots, no connection to the past,” Mary told us. That’s the lesson. Civic works makes a connection with the past in a subtle and clever way. You’ll love it or loathe it but you should take a stroll around Ancoats and try it out.

After I got over my initial cynicism due to the steaming toilet I enjoyed it. The Peeps Project should help to rejuvenate the area and it's groovy to learn about the past through new ideas. There are no labels or explanations of what you see either, that’s up to you to interpret.

Let’s face it who needs another statue. Go peep.

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