(About Tom)





'Glorification of the Springfields Compost Toilet'

Springfields Community Garden, Bradford, 1997, by Tom Cousins and the site gardeners.


Before stepping out of the front door we have begun poisoning our environment. But as the compost toilet at Springfield Community Gardens, Bradford, UK, demonstrates, we are not inevitably toxic sludge creators. Our effluent can be transformed into the food of life for plants, helping our environment blossum. Instead of poison manufacturers, compost toilets give us the opportunity to become the creators of fertility.

For the equinox on 21st September 1998, as an artwork, I organised a gathering at the community garden compost toilet (Bradford District's first). The gathering was to celebrate the first emptying of the solids compartment. The compost was used to plant holly trees around the perimeter of the site, marking north, south, west and east from the Compost toilet located site centrally. These evergreen trees will be pruned as they grow, so that the trunks become sharp marking points on the horizon.

There was food and beer, locally grown and brewed for all, and the toilet was toasted. While the environmentally aware adults present were aware of the issues, amoungst the children age 3- 14 the project really made an impression. The thought of digging into a poo box was repellent and irrisistable in equal measure, and they could not be held back from taking a close look. The idea that trees loved eating their poo was received with wide eyed incredulity. This was a concept with impact. Worries of health and safety were allayed since the compost had been analysed and was virtually free of infectious coliforms.

Compost toilets are a long term investment, making savings on water rates, and creating valuable compost. But they should not be seen as just cutting edge technology, in terms of profit and loss. They are a daily act of transformation, as such the task of emptying this magical technology can be seen as an honour, and celebrated as a fertility ritual.

Marcel Duchamp used and re-inforced Victorian ideas of revolution of bodily functions to impact conceptually on the art world. Now in the new millenium it is time for art to re-examine toilets, and by use of ritual or art objects, reclaim our notions of personal purity and inter-relatedness with nature.