Bathroom Stories


Bathroom Stories


Audio walk

5 minutes

Curated by Donald Goodes for the group exhibition Art All Over My House, part of the Desert Art Event.

Janet Cardiff

I recorded this piece in the bathroom where I was living at the time and talked about memories of another bathroom, the one in Donald’s house. I was experimenting with the layering of voices to get across the idea of different time periods.

sound of door closing then sound of me taking my pants down and using the toilet throughout dialogue.

Janet I think I remember a green door with black squares on it and a line of black that goes all the way around the room. And there’s a book on the back of the toilet, the toilet…

Janet voiceover comes in overlapping She had her hands braced on the rack bent over the water, which was still in the tub. They’d just finished bathing together and one thing led to another and they were making love, his pelvis against her buttocks, his hands pulling back on her hips, both were sweating, they needed another bath soon. But the rack pulled off, she fell with it, banging her head against the tub, cutting her arm, his penis went limp with the shock. And they drove to the hospital; her head was bruised but ok and she needed five stitches on her arm. They told the doctor that she was reaching for a towel on the tub when it broke.

Janet …and there’s a window above the bathtub.

sfx flushing toilet and washing hands.

Janet If you look out the window you can see the church steeple … or was that in France, I can’t remember.

Janet voice overlapping The nurse said to the doctor: that reminds me of the time the guy bruised his penis so badly that he couldn’t have intercourse for six months. They were doing it leaning against the wall and it slipped out and hit it against the wall, banging it so hard that he broke it. Of course he had heard that from a friend of a friend at a party, where all stories eventually lead to talk of sex.

Janet I can’t remember but there’s a piece of art above the shelf…


Janet’s Bathroom Stories was created for the independently organized, site-specific Desert Art Event that took place in Lethbridge, Alberta, a small city with a population of 75,000. It is an intense yet unassuming town where you can see the mountains a hundred kilometers away rise abruptly out of the arid prairie. It is also where liberal university students, Christian fundamentalists, descendants of the Siksika Nation Blood and Piegan tribes, traditional Hutterites, and one of the most cohesive art communities I have ever experienced all coexist, but rarely intermingle.

The part of the event dedicated to in situ art was subtitled Art All Over My House. And it was just that. Seventeen artists exhibited all sorts of installa-tions in various rooms of my upstairs apartment, in the front and back yards, as well as on the porch, tracks, and in the dirt basement. Janet created an audio work for my cramped bathroom. There was an old, cast-iron, claw-foot tub that Janet had asked me to wash in and leave to go cold for the duration of the show. A Walkman with headphones was screwed to the wall just outside the lavatory door. The cord was long enough to reach inside. Janet used sounds recorded on location, like the closing door, the flushing toilet, the washing of hands in the sink, and the sound of water in the bath.

And then there was Cardiff ’s seductive, signature voice speaking dreamily. The narrator drew attention to the features of the bathroom, as if she were trying to recall them because she was no longer there. What was on the shelves ? On the walls ? These observations and ghostly sounds, like the water running when it wasn’t really running, punctuated other strange stories about sex and highly charged, metaphoric images of women sinking. It was all woven together using dream-like jumps in logic.

Donald Goodes

Related Publications

Janet Cardiff
The Walk Book

Thyssen_Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna in collaboration with Public Art Fund, New York