Helen Chadwick, Sophy Rickett, Cathy Akers and (public) urination

Urinating is something all humans do, and public urination is something that most people living in an urban city face. While many living in a big city could say that they have at least once urinated on a street it is considered a taboo in the modern world. Nonetheless, it appears to be that women are seen doing it less than men, and get shamed for it more whether it is by men or other women. Helen Chadwick, Sophy Rickett, Cathy Akers are three female artists that decided to address this issue by creating very different pieces.

Helen Chadwick was a British conceptual artist and she created a sculpture in 1992 called “Piss Flowers.”

Piss-Flowers-by-Helen-Cha-001 bt0005

Helen Chadwick, “Piss Flowers”, 1992

The taboo act of public urination inspired Chadwick to create to beautiful sculptures in order to bring to the attention of the public to the act that most find frightening. Chadwick and her partner urinated in deep snow, then made casts of the interior spaces. While looking at the piece, the viewer is viewing the result of public urination in a public space. “Exalted through the object, their flower pistils cast from the cavities melted in the snow by hot urine, strong and warm from the woman, diffuse and cooler from the man, are an inversion of human genitalia. The central female form is penile, the male labial.” [ http://fineart.ac.uk/works.php?imageid=bt0005; Last accessed on 03.11.2015]

Sophy Rickett is a London born and based artist that works mostly with video/photo installations. She created a series of photos in 1995 called “Pissing Women.” It quickly became controversial, because it depicted women in office wear urinating on the streets standing up with their skirts pulled up.

0_417_418 Screen-shot-2012-08-18-at-21.41.390_550_555

Sophy Rickett, “Pissing Women”, 1995

In taking the decision to mimic a male equivalent or urination, Rickett is “challenging traditional ideas of dominance in such a specific way and its position within society.” [http://sangbleu.com/2012/08/19/pissing-women-1995/, Last accessed on 03.11.2015]

20 years later there appeared a product called GoGirl, which is a female urination device that lets women urinate while standing up. This product is mostly targeted towards women who are active and travel a lot, especially camping, since it is much more difficult to find a restroom in the woods. Though the products website makes it clear that it is perfect for everyday uses as well.

whatis2go-girl.com, 2015

The last artist I would like to mention about this topic is Cathy Akers, who is a Los Angeles based visual artist.

f54604_fab705131bb74d7189629ef42c76adb6 f54604_589d82249e074ebba0debd05001ce447Cathy Akers, “Pee Performances”, 2005-2006

The idea behind Akers project is to show the act of urinating in a way that would demonstrate the performer as closer to nature and to the ground and expose their private parts fully, while having to assume an awkward position. “Through this body of work, I am exploring the utopian desire to be “at one” with nature, as well as the impossibility of achieving this desire. At the same time, I am attempting to disrupt the essentialist notion that women are inherently closer to nature, to the primal and to the irrational.” says Cathy Akers in an online discussion. She is the performer in all of the photographs that are shot all around the United States. “This series explores the dichotomies inherent in a woman peeing in the woods; although I am interacting with nature in an intimate way, I assume awkward positions in order to pee effectively; although I am marking my territory and establishing my right to be in the woods through the act of peeing, I am also exposing my most private parts in a public space, putting myself in a very vulnerable position.”

Unlike Sophy Rickett’s photographs, Cathy Akers’ images are not as controversial mostly because of the setting that they are taken in. “Pissing Women” portrays women urinating in urban areas, which in an everyday life women might find as a threatening experience.

One thing that struck me as important is that most artists that explored this topic that I was able to research came from England, which made me wonder just why exactly does England seem more comfortable with talking about sensitive subjects, because it is not just the public urination that they explore.


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