SOAP-POOP Meets the Urban Water System

Inspired by artist Maria Gomez Umana’s foray into soap-making that resembled poop, I decided to extend my current project on urban ecology to take a closer look at Ottawa’s water purification and wastewater treatment systems.

We partnered with the Unstuck Collective, who were curating a Culture Days event outdoors at NECTAR — the New Edinburgh Community and Arts Centre, 255 MacKay Street, on Saturday, September 26, 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM. See An Unexpected Intersection: Soap Meets Poop for more details.

Unlike Maria, who made her soap-poop from scratch, I reworked some old soap, candle wax and the ends of tubes of acrylic paint from which I modelled my soap-poop. 

Beth Shepherd, Soap-Poop Sculptures, 2020 (Soap (oils, lye, fragrance), wax, acrylic paint)

Then soap-poop in hand, I headed off to the Britannia Water Filtration Plant to take some pictures. A few days later I went to the Robert O. Pickard Environmental Centre where all Ottawa’s wastewater is treated. Finally I biked to the Lemieux Island Water Purification Plant and took some more pictures with my soap-poop. The map shows the three facilities located on the Ottawa River.

Beth Shepherd, Ottawa Urban Hydrologic System Map (Composite rendition of screenshots from Google Earth, 24 X 36 inches, ink on paper encased in plastic

In keeping with a theme a conversations in a relaxed outdoor living room setting, I decided to present my work in the form of a “coffee table book” to inspire conversation. My coffee table book contains the photographs I took, an Ottawa Urban Hydrologic System map and a related article I wrote on the relationships between water, soap, poop, COVID-19 and climate change. Visitors could sit and flip through the COVID-friendly pages (all in plastic and wipeable) while we had very interesting conversations.

Unexpected Intersections: SOAP-POOP Meets the Urban Water System, A Coffee Table Book, by Beth Shepherd (Photo: Karina Simpatico)

The event went very well and the weather was great.

Nancy Baele and Petra Halkes, of the Unstuck Connective, in conversation
The Soap Meets Poop event at NECTAR September 26, 2020 (Photo: Karina Simpatico)

A number of people took the opportunity to browse though my coffee table book. Ian Allen read the whole thing and even caught some typos, which hopefully I have corrected in the posted version (below).

Ian Allen reading the coffee table book, September 26, 2020 (Photo: Beth Shepherd)

Maria began making her own soap to try to reduce consumer plastic. I found it ironic that in making my eco-art exhibition suitable for the out-of-doors and COVID-friendly, everything was covered in plastic! After visitors flipped through one copy of the coffee table book, I disinfected it by wiping the cover and each page with an alcohol cleaner.

Wiping down the coffee table books between uses (Photo: Rene Price)

All the images I took for this project are imbedded in the revised document.