Privy is a collaborative installation by Chicago artists Laurel Fredrickson and Susan Peterson. The installation confronts the societal norms that proscribe, define, articulate, and isolate us both within and without the social body. Distanced from our physical bodies, our ordinary acts are degraded and separated from us. The membrane of convention defines our limits and names us as civilized beings, whose inner and outer experiences are clearly delineated. We inhabit the divided spheres of public and private. Precise rules of conduct carefully limit and deny the movement of activities from one sphere to the other, from outside to inside. Perceptions of the self alter as one moves from external to internal space from what is open to what is protected. Paradoxically, the protection offered by the portable toilet is both one of cover and exposure, particularly in the act of transition, from inside to outside. This precarious privacy reflects the anxiety inherent in any delineation between self and society.
The installation is constructed of some thirty portable toilets viewed from two distinctly different positions: objective exterior and subjective interior, which includes "sub-installations" within approximately half of the units. In its denial of, or access to, the virtual interior of the installation, Privy suggests the decisions and the options available to the individual regarding inclusion, exclusion, or seclusion.