Completed a BA at the University of East London in 2021 and progressed onto Contemporary Art Practice at the Royal College of Art. Local art and mental health enthusiast. Deb Fitch-Daniels' work has always teetered on slightly disconnected. As a sufferer of OCD, the artist finds comfort in discomfort and explores methods of rethinking daily habitual practices to soothe the mind in unconventional ways. Recently, the artist has gained an obsession with bathrooms and has decided to explore ways of living, cleaning and caring in these spaces to feel slightly more connected.
I’m exploring how the management of cleaning our own spaces denotes ownership of said spaces and in turn, I am questioning the act of cleaning public spaces and what this means for publicly used spaces. In the course of this exploration, I question what effect a desensitisation to toxic chemicals may have on the self, the space and the way that we interact with our environment.
I argue whether ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’ and where the middle ground might be met. Good hygiene practices, such as regular bathing, washing hands, and keeping the living environment clean, help prevent the spread of diseases and promote overall well-being. This may be the cause for the constant use of the phrase above. In this sense, cleanliness is seen as a practical means of caring for one's body, which is often regarded as a sacred vessel in religious and spiritual contexts. However, we’ve become so used to using products that may harm us or the environment in the name of hygiene.
The use of harsh chemicals, particularly when personal protective equipment is not utilized or when proper safety measures are lacking, can create stress and concerns about personal health and safety. The cumulative effect of these stressors can contribute to mental health issues and impact overall well-being.
It is also worth noting that harsh chemicals can potentially contribute to poor indoor air quality, particularly in poorly ventilated spaces. Inhalation or exposure to air pollutants can impact cognitive function, mood, and overall mental well-being. This is particularly relevant in indoor environments where cleaning products, pesticides, or other chemical substances are used extensively.
Accessible bathrooms are however essential and therefore require maintenance and care in public spaces. Access to restrooms is a matter of basic human rights and inclusion for all individuals, regardless of their neurodivergent status. Ensuring that restrooms are accessible, safe, and accommodating for neurodivergent people promotes inclusivity, equality, and respect for their needs and dignity.
With this in mind, how do you keep a public restroom as a dignified space without harming the environment and the self in the process?
Even outside of the bathroom, the artist attempts to highlight the hidden dangerous waste left in public spaces and ponders whether it is truly possible to escape the sight of used bleach and batteries considering we so dearly need them to function.