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Tate Modern has one exceptional urinal, “Fountain” by Marcel Duchamp, which of course is for artistic appreciation only. Another unusual, but functional, urinal is the Dutch design “Kisses!”. Imagine the reaction of your guests if you had this one installed at home.
Yes, the Duchamp urinal “Fountain” at the Tate has had quite an infamous provenance. Not unexpectedly, there have been many attempts to take the work of art to its logical conclusion. In 2000, two of my compatriot performance artists, who had already made a name for themselves by sitting on Tracey Emin’s notoriously scruffy bed, tried to accept Duchamp’s apparent invitation to use the piece, with the result that both were thrown out of the gallery and barred for life. If I had any say at the Tate, I would have hung the work at least above waist level so that it was almost impossible for spectators to sabotage this provocative creation. The Dutch-designed urinal “Kisses!” resembles an open mouth with bulbous red lips. It is a little vulgar to be installed at home.
I have also been corrected by a reader who reports that urinals can be found in first-class cabins on Lufthansa aircraft. I hesitate to think what an unsuspecting female passenger would think, or do, after she locks the door.
My girlfriend would be far more worried about me watching a TV series like The X-Factor or The Voice than doing physical exercise at the gym. Winston Churchill, who died at the age of 90, is said to have explained his longevity with the words: “No sport!” And when it comes to exercising one’s mind, reading Metamorphoses every day wouldn’t be bad either, would it?
The Ovid I prefer is Ars Amatoria, which teaches both men and women how to pull in public. Of course, one would have to adapt some of his instructions, since, for example, these days we seldom go to an amphitheatre with the excuse of offering our handkerchief to an attractive spectator, in order to provide a clean surface on which to sit. We would find it awkward to do the same at, say, a modern theatre or cinema. But the poet’s ideas are instructive as well as entertaining. So perhaps it is true that “an Ovid a day, keeps the amnesia away”, since nurturing the mind in a static state is as important as working out like a mule on a treadmill or pumping iron. Churchill, of course, smoked cigars nonstop, without which his brain would not have worked turbocharged with such clarity and sharpness.
If restaurant menus are hard to read, what about newspapers? Or have you embraced the tablet, which can zoom in? Obviously, font size isn’t an issue if you have your PA reciting the news of the day each morning while you enjoy a coffee and croissant.
Your suggestion that I would expect my personal assistant to read the news to me every morning is a teasing absurdity. There is always the BBC World Service or, better still, Radio 4, which I am able to get wherever I am in the world. Their excellent broadcasters read the news to me, which I augment with the broadsheets for decent analyses and opinions. Print size in newspapers is not an issue for me, unlike menus, because I don’t eat their words. Besides, I expect to digest quality propositions, and not the hyperbolic descriptions of ingredients offered in fancy restaurants.
I also read the tabloids because their headlines are succinct, evocative and, too often, undervalued. It is not easy to report on the complexities of world affairs with the economy of words.
You once said that interior style is “best achieved in an understated manner”. Then how do you explain why your drawing room has clashing colours, hanging crystals, seats with different upholstery, and walls covered with art and photographs? It all looks spontaneous, refined and refreshingly eclectic but not understated per se.
Understatedness is measured by quality, not quantity. A room full of shelves of books and papers piled up on the floor and with an atmosphere of cerebral activity could be understated, in the sense that it is not ostentatiously lined with new, unopened books and a neat desk devoid of mess. I like to think I am, qua decorator, a maximalist who is not necessarily precluded for being understated. And how do you know what my home looks like?
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