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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Council Passes on Painted Porcelain Potties and Precludes Presentation in City Parks

• Project Sponsor Said ‘Toilets Are Integral Part of Our City’

BY BILL KOENEKER


It seemed apparent from the last time when the Malibu City Council was asked to vote on the “The Porcelain Project,” a planned art exhibition of recycled plumbing fixtures, that members really did not want to go on record approving or disapproving the use of discarded sinks, toilets and urinals from the remodeling of the library for an art exhibit celebrating the 20th anniversary of the city’s incorporation or for city-sponsored Earth Day events.
At this week’s Monday night meeting, the council, this time, went on record with a 3-2 vote refusing to endorse the proposal and deferring its money-making schemes and exhibitions to the county library system.
“You know my feelings about this. I still have reservations about this thing. It is a private [endeavor],” said Councilmember Lou La Monte, who suggested that instead of the proceeds going to the proposed Civic Center Wastewater facility, the monies collected from the sale of the art work go to the library.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich, who previously told council members she wanted to organize the community art project and was again asking council members to endorse the Porcelain Project or what some wags have derisively called the Potty Project, seemed to take to La Monte’s idea immediately
Conley Ulich was asking the council to give an official endorsement by agreeing to accept the proceeds of the community art project and approve the use of two of the art pieces for display at the Michael Landon Center at Bluffs Park for nearly three weeks in April.
“Maybe the proceeds could go to the Malibu Friends of the Library or the book fund. It is a good idea,” she said.
La Monte talked about who had the authority to grant the display space at the Michael Landon Center and was told it was up to the council “Doesn’t the Parks and Recreation Commission have the authority?” he asked.
City Manager Jim Thorsen said only if the council gave them the authority otherwise the council could take action.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal agreed with the recommendations and was ready to move the item.
After it was seconded by La Monte, Councilmember Jefferson Wagner said he had a problem with it. “I have supported Pam on a number of issues. It would be difficult for me to approve this. I have no problem giving [the proceeds] to the library. But I have a problem displaying it at Bluffs Park.”
La Monte agreed. “I have some issues with putting it on city property,” he said.
Wagner said if the art pieces were put on city property that constituted city endorsement. Both men said they had gotten phone calls from constituents.
Rosenthal suggested that just two pieces be displayed for the purpose of education and to show recycling and reuse.
But then Mayor John Sibert stepped into the conversation and said he too had some reservations much like La Monte and Wagner. “I don’t have a real problem with it at the Malibu Lumberyard,” the mayor added.
“As long as it is not city-sponsored,” replied La Monte. There was a brief discussion about the use of the city-owned shopping center, but council members agreed they had no control over the art space at the Lumberyard.
“ We could select a piece such as just sinks not urinals,” said Wagner.
Whereupon, Conley Ulich said, “I have to differ. If you want to pick the pieces, it is city-sponsored.”
At a previous meeting, La Monte had cautioned the city could become the “butt” of every joke by taking on such irreverence when it was trying to improve its image, especially in light of spending upwards of a $100,000 by hiring its own publicist for an image makeover..
“We are trying to upgrade our image. I’m cautioning you,” he added.
The proposal will “transform” 20 pieces of porcelain restroom fixtures (sinks, urinals, and toilets) that have been recycled from the library reconstruction project and make them into “works of art.”
Conley Ulich had said the history and future of Malibu has always been connected with sewers and toilets.
“The city was founded because we did not want sewers in Malibu to control growth. It is the very representation of history and fate of Malibu. The toilet is an integral part of our city,” she had explained.
Conley Ulich went even further in her analysis, comparing the situation to the Dadaism cultural movement that began in Zurich, Switzerland, during World War I, and expressed its manifesto of anti-war politics through a rejection of the standards of Western art and the creation of so-called anti-art.
“We can help heal the city and do what Marcel Duchamp did in his seminal piece of the Dada movement,” she had said.

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