Originally published as part of Mesh, issue 16, 2003
The technology, design and function of the toilet is being redefined at a rapid rat, particularly in Japan, the Mecca of the futuristic toilet. Japanese toilets are not only sexy, they are fully desirable and seductive technological appliances, inviting one to spend time in contemplation. The bathroom in Japan is now being colonised with all manner of technology. Some recent developments include research into a stool sample system which automates the process for you. The intelligent toilet receives your stool sample and sends it’s breakdown to a laboratory. Where the contents are analyzed for any suspect micro-organisms. The toilet then emails you the results. One can imagine that the role of the toilet as intelligent diagnostic appliance is not so far off, toilets could possibly provide the user with their own colonoscopy, enema or colonic irrigation. The role of the toilet may be potentially transformed into a new addition to the health, medical and fitness industry: toilets that make you feel better, look younger and give you a healthy glow.
A visit to Japan is not complete without a trip to the showroom of Japanese toilet kings, Toto. On display are working models and prototypes of potential toilet developments, including ‘the easy clean toilet’ where the porcelain bowl is coated in a special slippery substance, making it impossible for those extra clingy stools to stick to the side of the bowl. Other research proposes to eradicate the smell from faeces, the future of shit will be stink-free.
Already available in Japan are toilets that mask the sound of shitting and pissing. One popular line is the Princess Toilet, which plays the sounds of waterfalls as you do your thing. Other toilets come complete with alarm systems for waking up the elderly who may fall asleep on the toilet, scented toilet bowls (with multiple perfume selectors), heating and cooling systems and automated toilets that can clean themselves. Forget plasma screens and surround sound home theatres – the state of the art toilet is fast becoming the ‘must have’ technological appliance of for the 21st century.
One can’t talk of toilets without talking of shit. Already we have the environment friendly hybrid toilets, which turn sewerage into compost for your garden. But perhaps the weirdest current research involves the filtering and re-processing of used sewerage to transform it into food for humans to eat. In the future, our existence may become totally sustainable, as humans may regenerate their own bodily waste as food supply. One could imagine the futuristic colonoscopy bag, that both collects and reprocesses our faeces for food. Scat sex already points towards a perverse sexual fetish of shit eating. And an account of the future of shit will not be complete without mentioning Belgium artist Wim Delvoye’s ‘cloaca’ (2000) a 12 metre long mechanical digestive tube and machine for creating human excrement without the aid of the human body. The future lies not in grey, but brown water.
Like a bizarre version of Soylent Green, reconstituted shit may be used for cookies, energy bars and protein powder. Forget about Mad Cows disease, SARS – a new kind of rampant human shit psychopathology will be the disease of the future. The humble toilet is no longer the ubiquitous domestic site of biological function and necessity, but the location of a new kind of media, smart toilets, interactive shit and edible waste.
In this futuristic society, shit will take on many new and untapped applications, nutritious food, smell free fertilizer, and methane gas as a fuel for powering the alternative house of the future. One could indeed imagine a futuristic society that places an economical value on shit, where sewerage farms become vast repositories of a nations fuel and food supply. A culture obsessed by its own bodily waste may inspire new forms of sustainable living that we never thought possible