Typology of Toilet Rolls was shot at the height of panic buying during the first Covid-19 lockdown in the UK. As art is essential by proxy I am therefore an essential worker allowing me to join the panic buyers visiting supermarkets to purchase multiple brands photographing them in an improvised studio. Each image is accompanied by the factory specifications including roll length, average sheets per roll, sheet size and total area.
In the tradition of the pseudo-scientific typology and ambivalent cultural gaze this high resolution study of the similarity and difference of the once humble and ignored toilet roll was, until Corvid19, the perfect foil for the absurdity of consumerism; a long lost idea of industrialisation replaced by the human engine driving the economy; our emotions manipulated towards excessive, pathological and unchecked desire for variety.
But now Covid-19 has done what conventional politics could not; it has put at risk hard won structures of delicate persuasion that chasing of our own tail is the only sensible solution to a successful society. The capitalist model has been briefly questioned, perhaps optimistically even checked by this alternative reality and a new shape emerges, the once taken for granted toilet roll elevated to the status of precious commodity and allegory for our ever-present but previously masked primal anxiety.
Perhaps we can broach the sensitive subject of what Mr Sigmund Freud considered stage two of our essential psychosexual development, the anal stage or as I like to call it, the anal stage. I sense some reticence to read on but stay with it like, a stubborn number two, you've committed this far (there are some hamsters on wheels at the end as a reward).
The Anal Stage (2) is one of five stages through which we must all pass in order to have a functioning libido and healthy personality. Mr Freud posited that if a child's relationship to any of the 5 stages is frustrated it will lead to neurosis that will be carried forward to shape the adult personality. Threaten to takeaway an essential element (the toilet roll) in our relationship to our 'little precious' and there is potential for anxiety.
A downgrading of the relevance of Freud's theories has occurred due to the parts of his theories that reflect the inherent mysogyny of his times but the baby has been thrown out with the bath water. Have we lost touch with some still relevant explanations for our collective anxieties? What appears on the surface to be an irrational fear projected onto the innocent toilet roll, does indicate what is in fact an unspoken and perfectly rational anxiety. As the fear of societal breakdown rises our hard one privacy is threatened. Its akin to the fear of being run over and being found wearing dirty underwear. Our wealth has afforded us the luxury and disability of detaching us from what was once understood as community. Some other societies less touched by this great gift of western democratic capitalism must be confused and amused by the hysteria associated with the loss of this thin sheet between us and our erogenous dirt star.