Arts centre's show is not for the camera-shy

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The Independent Online
WARNING: do not visit the lavatories at the Institute of Contemporary Arts next month unless you want to be seen by a wider public - as a work of art.

Surveillance cameras are being moved into the London arts centre's public facilities: exhibitionists and unfortunates who fail to notice warning signs will become part of the latest installation art of Rosa Sanchez, one of Barcelona's 'most provocative artists'.

Ms Sanchez is still developing the ideas behind Sanctus, the Profaned Body, but the work promises to be a 'voyeuristic and intimate installation about the body, sex and society'. She looks at images of the female form, 'whilst exploring the erotic perceptions of seeing and being seen'.

Lois Keidon, ICA director of live arts, emphasised cameras will film only in the wash area, not in cubicles, among various images to be relayed within the gallery space: 'Cameras are not being put down the toilets. It's not a complete invasion of privacy.'

She added that both the ladies and gents will be on camera. 'Equal opportunities apply. I don't think this is shocking. The piece is about the culture of vision - perception and representation, perversion and control . . . It's serious and complex.'

Ms Sanchez is by no means the first to find lavatories the seat of artistic ideas. A chain of artists ranges from Marcel Duchamp (his urinal of 1917) to Robert Gober (his urinal of the 1980s). As Ms Keidon put it, 'the toilet has figured very largely in 20th-century art'. At the Serpentine in January last year, loudspeakers were put in the public lavatories in an installation by Georgina Starr. Taped conversations about such matters as husbands and diets were as loud and clear in the gallery as in the lavatories.

Ms Sanchez's work is part of a Spanish arts festival whose sponsors include British Telecom and the Foreign Office, which contributed pounds 5,000.

The installation is on view from 18 to 26 March but cameras will be switched on from the start of the month. For those flushing at the thought of being filmed, the ICA has camera-free loos, too.

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