Under / Over is a group exhibition located in Los Angeles, California hosted by Marta + Plant Paper from September 10 to November 1. The bathroom is a place of social and environmental politics. A single company, owned by Koch Industries, controls 29% of the tissue paper market in North America. With the purchase of fluffy, plastic-wrapped, bleach-white rolls, many Americans are unwittingly aiding in the politically-conservative efforts of conglomerates like Koch Industries, which has funneled millions of dollars into voter suppression, the aiding and growth of the Prison Industrial Complex, and the reversal of common-sense environmental protections.
In the early 1900s, after centures of wiping variously with stones, sponges, sea-shells, and corn cobs, the West began using toilet paper made of virgin tree-pulp, chlorine, and a host of other toxic chemicals. The statistics of this ongoing practice are appalling: 27,000 trees flushed down the world’s toilets each day; 37 gallons of clean water per roll. Big toilet paper companies have been decimating the environment for decades as they turn old-growth tree-pulp into a product that most people use absent-mindedly for a matter of seconds each day.
Any hope for reversing the effects of this convention hinges on altering our relationship to toilet paper and its dispensing mechanisms. Through the making and distribution of tree-free toilet paper, Plant Paper has regularly noted a lack of considered design and dynamism in this niche but familiar touchpoint of the bathroom landscape. In response, “Under / Over” hosts a diverse group of international participants, resulting in an exhibition that merges function and delight, prizing a seemingly humble piece of hardware that we invariably interact with every day and, in so doing, perhaps prompting a subtle shift in this particular paradigm.