Isabella Darcy: Luxury & Labour
Disneyland Paris opened in May this year and is likely Melbourne’s newest gallery. Although gallery is more of a proxy word. The space is located in a disused serviceman’s restroom—AKA toilet—on the ground floor of the Thornbury block of flats where its founder, David Attwood, lives. In decades gone, planning law dictated that residential blocks of a particular size include a separate toilet and basin for visiting tradespeople, presumably to maintain the separation of the classes. Thornbury, once a working-class environ, has not been immune to artists moving in, bringing with them the gentrification that drives up rental and prices. In this case, even the tradie toilet is vulnerable to the art community’s middle-class tastes. Having said that, the space also serves as a prime example of arts workers’ resourcefulness during increasing economic austerity and, as such, it exists as an opportunistic response to that same middle-class bulge.
Many people will know Attwood as an artist who has regularly created works around the theme of shit. For the 2018 Kyneton Contemporary Art Triennial, for example, the artist developed a mascot of types, dressing up in a custom emoji-poo outfit, which he walked around the town in. So his now having established an art space in the site of a disused comfort station is befitting. Attwood white-cubed the space, removing the toilet and basin and painting the walls. But the pipes that connected to the toilet and sink remain as a warm reminder of what once was. Although Disneyland Paris was a pre-COVID idea, one is tempted to contextualise it in the current scheme of things. For when the gallery opened in May, Middle Australia was licking its wounds after panic buying toilet paper (I must credit my co-editor Chelsea Hopper for prompting me to write about this event with the following message: “if you don’t mention that you r dead 2 me). The gallery’s name is also a nod to that same excess that caused Aussies to biff in the Woolworths bathroom aisle. For Disneyland is perhaps the epitome of a consumer paradise aimed at the suburban masses. And if Emily in Paris has taught us anything, it is that Paris remains the ultimate new-money fantasy destination for anglophones looking for a bit of culture.