Vanessa Norton

Ellen Jong: Pees on Earth

Excerpt from a conversation between Ellen Jong and Annie Sprinkle:

EJ: Do you think there’s expression in pornography?

AS: A friend of mine calls it “by the people for the people.” It’s creative and people are expressive but there’s highbrow and there’s lowbrow. Porn is like folk art.

EJ: Wow, folk art . . . I can relate to this idea. My pee photographs come from instinct with no pretense. I was shooting everything around me including my own body, and of an act I was already doing several times a day. After shooting them more and more, they got better and better—using my own arm’s distance from my body like a tripod with a third eye. The bathroom is one of my most private places. I took down my bathroom walls and brought my sanctuary outdoors. What is your sanctuary?

AS: I’ve always loved floating in water. They don’t call me Sprinkle for nothing. The bathtub is certainly one of my sanctuaries. But I grew up in Los Angeles with a swimming pool in my backyard. I was happy in the pool. And I admit, I peed in the pool. Yes, the bathroom is a special place.

EJ: Have you ever peed in public, in the street?

AS: Hasn’t everyone? Often! I usually wear dresses without panties, so if I have to pee really badly, I can squat on a lawn with the dress covering my legs and I’ll go through my purse pretending like I’m looking for something—I could pee right in the middle of the lawn in front of City Hall and no one would have a clue. It’s fun and sometimes necessary.

From Ellen Jong’s Pees on Earth:


Pissing on Patriarchy: Kiki Smith and Jia Chang

Standing Up Peeing is a series of photographs depicting nude bodies peeing while standing up. In six photos, Jia Chang depicts models performing the very banal, humanly function of urination in gracefully awkward postures. While the pretext of anatomy has labeled these poses "masculine", the depiction of female bodies mimicking them suggests a brute objection to the social constructs that equate them as "male" in the first place. Here, the female body is celebrated rather than shamed, praised for versatility rather than discredited for its "otherness". The viewer is involuntarily made voyeur as they gaze directly into the artist's invitation to criticize the social structures and taboos that aim to hide and exclude within our modern society.

From Jia Chang's "Standing Up Peeing":

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Concerned with interior biological processes of waste and regeneration, Kiki Smith subverts the Western sculptural tradition of the eroticized female form. Here the un-idealized life-size body of a woman, molded in sweet-smelling beeswax, crouches on the gallery floor with sparkling yellow beads streaming out behind her. The earthy subject is tempered by its delicate materials — wax and glass. The bowed head and folded arms suggest an introspective and vulnerable state, as our voyeuristic encounter with the crouched woman quietly insists we consider what constitutes improper behavior in communal space: is it the figure who publicly displays a private act, or the viewer who violates that privacy?

Kiki Smith's "Pee Body":


Dasha Ilina on Cathy Akers and Sophie Rickett

In Dasha Ilina's brief introduction to the works of Helen Chadwick, Cathy Akers and Sophie Rickett ("Feminist Artists Changing the World"), Ilina looks at Akers' "Pee Performances" and Rickett's "Pissing Women" as an attempt to challenge traditional ideas of dominance (Rickett) and question our relations to nature (Akers).

From Sophy Rickett's "Pissing Women":

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From Cathy Akers' "Pee Performances":


Whether you look at what you're doing as a political statement, a performance, or as a way of positioning yourself in relation to nature or culture, one thing is certain: you are in conversation with history.