Utility, Sexuality, Creativity: The Search for Meaning in a Public Loo

Raina Rabin


This article uses the subterranean public toilets in Taylor Square, Darlinghurst to explore the social constructs of modernity and postmodernity. Based on Enlightenment theories, discussion of modernity's progress through renewal and experimentation will reveal its impact on constructing moral parameters over time. Examination of the dynamic use of the toilets from one of utility to a meeting place for Sydney's male homosexual subculture illustrates the intersection of modern and postmodern thought by questioning the dominant narrative of the period, transforming social mores. Hobsbawm's concept of 'invented traditions' proves a useful tool to clarify the value of symbols and ritual in unifying individuals with regard to the development of the gay community in Sydney. A look at the present-day use of the toilets as an exhibition space for the art installation A Leaf From the Book of Cities reflects postmodern sensibilities by questioning of prevailing social values and instigating an open conversation with the public on what it is to be a sustainable community.

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