Professor Curates Exhibition Inspired By Upstate Man’s Toilet Art

Anyone who has driven through the upstate New York town of Potsdam in recent years has probably spotted Hank Robar‘s lot of toilets on Market Street. He initially amassed the collection to protest the city’s rejection of his bid to rezone the property, and, years later, it is still pissing off the neighbors. (Robar insists that the display is art.) Now, the controversy has inspired artist and Clarkson University professor Steven Pedersen to curate the exhibition “Eaux D’Artifice” at the local Creative Spirit Community Arts Center, through February 9.

“A bit like Paris has the Eiffel Tower, London has Big Ben — whether we like it or not, I think the public toilet display somehow has become this emblem or one thing people mention if you say you’re from Potsdam,” he said in an interview with North County Public Radio yesterday.

Pedersen compares Robar’s interest in the toilet to Duchamp’s fountain, of course, but he also goes further to reimagine the lot as a field of “fountains, the kind of elaborate displays you see in big baroque gardens in France.” The resulting exhibition includes videos, photographs, prints, and even a three-dimensional virtual toilet.

And Pedersen genuinely seems to like Robar’s “work:” “I saw it as a form of creative gesture, some form of little rupture, a way of sending a ripple through a community.”

— Rachel Corbett

(Photo: Steve Pedersen, North County Public Radio)