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Germany: health warnings at your convenience
  1. David Simpson
  1. d.simpson{at}

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    German artists Bär + Knell came up with the idea of using the European Union health warnings to cover nearly 1000 temporary toilets used at the closing event of the XX World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne in August. The toilet cubicles extended in lines totalling more than 1.5 km, and were visited by many of the nearly one million young people who attended the event, many of whom kept a joint vigil with the Pope before spending the night in the open air. The idea went deeper than the shocking images that faced casual visitors to the cubicles. Gerhard Bär of Bär + Knell observed that the toilet has always been a place where communication takes place—one need only think of all the graffiti that graces the walls of public toilets, he said, or the legendary humour scrawled inside. Toilets are the “quiet places” where you have time to think, but they are also the locations where the first cigarettes are secretly smoked behind closed doors, where drugs are sold and consumed—and, sometimes, where people die. At the end of the World Youth Day the toilet tents were due to be cleaned, dismantled, and re-erected in 1000 school playgrounds all over Germany. The project was carried out in collaboration with the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Tobacco Control in Heidelberg.

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    Toilet cubicles covered with EU health warnings in use at the XX World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne. Photos: Rainer Holz/Bär + Knell;

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