Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Stand and Deliver:The Politics of Peeing

“Fantasies of omnipotence, especially those of a sadistic character, are as a matter of fact more easily associated with the jet of urine passed by the male.”
Karen Horney
Feminine Psychology
On the Genesis of the Castration Complex circa 1922

“Male urination really is an accomplishment, an arc of transcendence.”
Camille Paglia
Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence From Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson

“…that’s bullshit.”
Becky Flanders
2008 interview with Lady Jaided and Sex Talk

There was a time when Becky Flanders was envious of boys’ ability to pee any time, any place, standing up with their pants on. But no longer. Now, she can stand and deliver with the best of them. In fact, she can aim her urine well enough to hit a target--say a porcelain teacup or a toy airplane. She could probably write her name in the snow if she felt like it.

But Becky Flanders is on a more important mission.

For the young artist and graduate student, upright peeing is a political act, one that challenges our very notions of gender. Freudian psychoanalyst Karen Horney said that penis envy originates in the ability of boys to hold their penises in their hands and urinate freely without shame. A mere century later, Becky has crashed both the pee and shame barriers with her recent Tampa exhibition featuring a series of explicit photos of herself directing sparkling streams of piss at various targets and receptacles, from toy airplanes and ants to delicate china cups. She even has a triptych that shows three different methods for manipulating a woman’s equipment in order to direct the flow.

Though the photos are detailed and do not shy away from showing pretty much everything, there’s really nothing sexual about them. “I try to keep the work out of fetish territory,” she says. “The images don’t address pleasure or porn. They’re about power politics, the construction of gender through things like how pants are designed.” Pants, says Becky, even those for women, are designed to allow men easy access to their penises precisely so they can pee easily. Even a woman who can pee standing up still has to pull her pants down. So Becky retrofitted pants, using zippers and Velcro to enlarge the fly all the way to the tailbone.

Becky began exploring the idea of approaching the power politics of pee as art after enrolling in the masters studio art program at the University of South Florida. She researched historical references to women who could urinate like men. She found very few mentions and no visual evidence.

However, the research did begin to give an historical context to the images starting to form in her mind, and many of the pieces in her exhibition contain allusions to historical and art historical figures and ideas. One is a photograph of herself dressed as Marie Antoinette wearing a cake on her head and peeing into a tiny cup. Becky points out that if you look closely, you can see the corona of the urine splashing out of the cup. “It’s part of the metaphor,” she explains. “Not only is she corseted, with this cake on her head that blinds her, but she’s aiming into a too-small container. Isn’t that what femininity does? It’s not a natural feat.”

To read the rest of this article for free and see more pictures of Becky's work, go here.


Sally Painter said...

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Susan Edwards said...

Wow, thanks, Sally! You know I'm crazy about your books and Ciana's. And Romance Vixens rocks! I feel totally honored.