For those of you who might not know, urinal screens are plastic screens found in men’s restroom that cover the holes in urinal to prevent larger things from being flushed down urinals. I assume most women have not spent a long time in men’s restrooms and are not as familiar with urinals as men. The most famous urinal is Marcel Duchamp’s wonderfully titled “readymade” Fountain, as shown below.
Duchamp’s urinal lacked a screen for obvious reasons, though given Duchamp the “screen” would have likely been a tuna fish sandwich or one of Francis Picabia’s shoes. Today urinal screens often have benign and forgettable messages on them such as “Say No to Drugs” or “Don’t Drink and Drive.” Some enterprising folks have even created urinal screens with the faces of Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Trump, and for those who cannot let things go, the face of Jane Fonda under the phrase “Hanoi Jane Still a Traitor.”
While this is lighthearted fun, men should fear the day when angry and scorned women obtain urinal screen message-writing privileges. Some of those messages might read as follows:
- Ha-ha! Should I get the tweezers for you?
- I faked it all the time.
- I know where you hide your porn – and I’m telling your mom.
- Size does count, Chief Little Weasel!
- Your mother’s cooking sucks.
- One word for you: Inadequate.
- I’ve told all of my friends.
- I lied: The back hair is gross.
- I was only in it for the money.
- You are about as romantic as an oil change.
- You are going to pay!
- All of your friends will soon find out that you have watched Beaches 17 times.
On a historical note, in a fit of pique, an anonymous ex-girlfriend of Duchamp’s scribbled in hard to remove ink “ce n’est pas de l’art, bâtard paresseux” on the original Fountain. Roughly translated this says: “This is not art, you lazy f***ing, bastard. I hope Joseph Stella drops this piece of crap on your head.” Ironically, Duchamp had to pee on the urinal and apply a lot of elbow grease to remove what the girlfriend had written.
Though now one of the most famous pieces of Da-Da art, Fountain was rejected for inclusion in an exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists at the Grand Central Palace in New York in 1917. Calvin Tomkins, a Duchamp biographer, thinks the piece would have been accepted had the ex-girlfriend’s message not been removed.
If you are in San Francisco, be sure to visit the Exploratorium at Pier 15. They took Duchamp’s idea one step further: An actual drinking fountain made out of a toilette.