May 17th, 2007

Toilets in modern water closets rise up from the floor like white water lilies. The architect does all he can to make the body forget how paltry it is, and to make man ignore what happens to his intestinal wastes after the water from the tank flushes down the drain. Even though the sewer pipelines reach far into our houses with their tentacles, they are carefully hidden from view, and we are happily ignorant of the invisible Venice of shit underlying our bathrooms, bedrooms, dance halls, and parliaments.

-Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being


Venice is a locative poetic fiction for delivery on mobile phones that links together a series of narrative pieces using an early map of Sydney City’s sewerage system.

A series of fictional pieces will be set in five public toilets in Sydney’s centre that surround the Hyde Park Obelisk. Utilising signage in each location, audience members will access the pieces on the spot via their mobile phone. The pieces will constitute points on a secret map of Sydney that the viewer writes with their feet as they travel from site to site. This virtual map is transcribed over an actual 1854 map of the main sewers laid by the City Council.

Venice unearths the buried poetics of these intimate spaces by transcribing upon them imagined histories and unlocking their narrative potential. The audience begins to conjure images of the subterranean sewerage pipes, the tank stream, “the invisible Venice of shit” that underlies the city, bringing together both historical and imagined fragments of narrative that are rendered more intense as they are experienced in situ.

Venice has two levels of implementation: mobile internet and desktop internet. Via signage and barcode camera-phone readers in each of the locations, audience members can access the site on their phone browser. The simple site consists of the fiction piece, as well as a map of the other sites and a link to the homepage, constituting a hand-held guide to a walking tour of the work. The project is also accessible through a regular browser, where the user can explore the map and all of the poetic pieces.