Tearooms (urinals where gay sex occurs), have always had a bad reputation – even from the LGBTQ+ community. For some years now, French photographer Marc Martin has been exploring the history and the stories of public toilets.
In the French slang of the last century, they called tearooming, “Faire les tasses.” Erected in the public space at the time of hygiene, vespasiennes (another name for public urinals) had to meet the natural needs of the male population. In private, the tea rooms responded to a social need.
Inaugurated in 2017 at the Schwules Museum in Berlin, Marc Martin's exhibition has been extended due to its success. Because it fits on the fringes of memory today, no classical institution in Paris wished to highlight the subject; the “pissotières” have a bad reputation. They are more synonymous with shame than pride within the community. Yet these dirty places offered a freedom. These places of passage and atypical sociability saw social classes fade, cultures mix. It has often been criticized that men who frequent the”pissotières” are cowardly, described as sordid. But have not they dared, in an environment hostile to diversity, to brave the forbidden? Have they not, for more than a century, dared to face pleasures forbidden by law? I would like us to recognize these men's certain courage.
Marc Martin will be showcasing "Public Toilets, Private Affairs" in his first solo show in New York at the Leslie Lohman Museum Project Space in September 2020.