In a new series of acrylic on board paintings, the exhibition brings together notions of cleanliness, normativity and morality in a dramatized satirical fiction, exploring the ways the body is manipulated through the lens of hygiene.
Brooks describes a fictional commercial cleaning company, ‘Scrubbers’, as they work their way through a number of familiar institutional spaces; the public toilet, the gym, the psychotherapy room, punctuated by coffee and cigarette breaks. Instead of working undisturbed into the night, their schedule takes them into opening hours, and both the cleaners and service users clash in space, confronted, undermined and disrupted by each other’s tasks. Equipment is broken, or has mutated over time, visible plumbing is ineffective or obsolete, the technologies of hygiene that steer these spaces and their occupants into production are destabilized, rendering the spaces obsolete, sullied, soiled.
People, objects, architecture and motifs are deliberately arranged in the works to convey a frantic tension, highlighting our persistent efforts as consumers to maintain, modify and ‘enhance’ ourselves, often to the detriment of our own well-being. Brooks uses this irony (that the hygienic practices and commodities promising us ever more easy, clean, authentic, and better ways to be, so often lead to economic hardship and poor mental health) and turns it on its head, mocking the absurdity of these hygienic embodiments and destabilizing their efforts to show us what we reallyneed. A tub of ‘Endurance’ gym wipes is knocked over and soiled, pharmaceuticals are carried through filthy plumbing systems jarring amongst fecal matter and sea-slugs, and a person at a urinal pisses on a bottle of ‘Aggressor’, a multi-purpose cleaning solution.
The spaces represented in the paintings are those traversed through Brooks’ own hormone transition and mental health support, and describe particular hygienic acts he’s exercised in a bid to re/cover his ‘authentic’ gendered, material and psychic self. Checkered with uncertainty, compromise and bargaining, for him they feel more like spaces of entrapment and desperation and are pulled in part from his experience as a carer, and from family and friends who work in the hospitality industry and medical professions.
Evoking historic examples where hygiene has been utilized as a technology to manage and control social bodies, Brooks hints towards histories of colonization and domination, asking us to question their presence today (for example within contemporary socio-spatial projects of gentrification such as the rise of gyms, coffee shops, boutiques, replacing community hubs, estates and spaces to loiter.) Brand names such as ‘Fortress’ hand-sanitizer, ‘Sovereign’ black mould spray, and a ‘Sir’ mop bucket are inserted into the paintings, with equal parts tragedy and humour. The re-appropriation of the word ‘scrubber’ is also a provocation, with an attachment of class and gender based stereotypes, it was once a 19th century term for “low-ranking woman in domestic service”, many of whom would’ve been forced to work as prostitutes to make ends meet.