Editor Friederike Schilbach loves the stories behind bathrooms of her friends around the world. Now she’s showing 90 photos of them in a Berlin exhibition for the first time
The bathroom is a room that belongs absolutely to the private sphere. Almost no other room contains so much potential for unique stories. Friederike Schilbach collected pictures from friends around the world of their bathrooms. Among them: Lena Dunham, Leanne Shapton, Sheila Heti, Joana Avillez, Mary Scherpe, Ayzit Bostan, and Sarah Illenberger. The pictures gathered from women form The Bathroom Chronicles. The show simultaneously kicks off the series Window into the World, which Friederike is realizing in collaboration with Melanie dal Canton at MDC Cosmetic on Knaackstraße. From the 25th of November until the 5th of December, 90 photos will be shown. The photographs are unique framed pieces and available for purchase. All proceeds will be donated to a women’s aid project in Berlin.
Last spring, I visited a friend in Italy when I found the inspiration for this collection. She lives in Monopoli, a little city by the sea, in an apartment that used to belong to a captain. My friend renovated it herself very beautifully. Where once stood the fireplace and pulpo was grilled, now stands the bathroom. When you step into the shower, you can look up a meter-long shaft – and like a James Turrell artwork, see the open sky way above.
The room resembles my friend in character: airy, open, minimalistic, beautiful. Before I left, I asked her to send me a photo of her bathroom for the memory.
She did and wrote a few lines about it. Back in Berlin, I asked more friends – at first only four or five – if they could also send me a photo of their bathroom. Day after day, mail arrived with photos and emotional stories about yucca palms, trips, grandmothers, and ex-boyfriends. Almost every one of these friends sent the task to another friend whose bathroom should be part of the collection. Quickly it was more than a hundred photos.
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I have always found bathrooms more interesting than living rooms, kitchens, or bedrooms – it’s a place where you meet yourself, in the mirror, while brushing your teeth, applying cream, fixing your hair, on the way into the day or into the night. Many of my friends keep things in the bathroom that have special meaning: family photos, flowers, jewelry, mementos, vintage finds, books, postcards, flacons, perfumes, old towels, little mermaids, plastic whales, hourglasses, creams, vases, tampons, jars, bathrobes, plants, ceramic pots, children’s toys, hair clips, magazines, rubber ducks, pills, lipsticks. It’s an intimate room, perhaps the most intimate in the entire home – it’s where they unfold their lives, confront themselves, construct their identity, create a self-portrait.
Perhaps that is also the reason why I like spending time in their bathrooms: it is the room in which a little bit of the everyday magic of these friends becomes tangible. Every year an old Filipina friend who now lives in New York City gives me a small Johnson’s cologne from the drug store. It is actually nothing more than scented water for babies. You can’t get it in Berlin, but you can in the Philippines. My friend knows how much I like to smell these artificial scents (Morning Dew, Purple Rain, Summer Swing etc.) and how much they remind me of our shared childhood.
Another friend loves spending time in my bathroom, trying out the rose water or a new lipstick. When I’m at her place, I do the same. Even if I normally don’t use hairspray, I buy the one by Oribe that she uses. Every time I visit I would love to take a replica of her bathroom home with me – as if this way I could always have my friend by my side and channel her through these objects.
Now these pictures have been gathered for the first time and can be seen in Melanie dal Canton’s wonderful shop MDC Cosmetic on Knaackstraße. With some photos chaotic, some finely arranged, The Bathroom Chronicles show bathrooms from women around the world. From 5 years old to 75, living in cities and small, Munich, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Frankfurt, Berlin, Johannesburg, London, Lecce, Toronto, Kirchheim, Bangkok, Leipzig, Constance, and Tokyo. With each of their photos, they present a private portrait of themselves with descriptions in their own words. What has been created is a series of images that tell the stories of today’s women. They are expressive, mysterious, and inspiring.
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The opening event for the exhibition “The Bathroom Chronicles” at MDC Cosmetic (Knaackstraße 26, 10405 Berlin) takes place today between 5pm and 8pm. All photographs will be on show there until the 5th of December.
Friederike Schilbach is an editor at S. Fischer and prepared, alongside many others, Jarett Kobek’s book “I Hate the Internet”, which came out in October. (Editor’s note: this refers to the German language translation. The original English language book was published in February 2016.)
Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.