Ellen Jong: The body as performance art

Ellen Jong is an American photographer and artist born May 22, 1976 in New York City to a mother who is a pediatrician and a father who is an obstetrician gynecologist. She alludes to a connection between parents as medical professionals and the human body as a vessel for physical health and performance. Studies in psychology and visual arts led her to photography and from there capturing her own life became an important theme in her work. In 2006, she published her first monograph, “Pees On Earth”, a collection of self-portraits taken while urinating in public. In 2010, she published “Getting To Know My Husband’s Cock”, a collection of pictures of her husband but not limited to that one body part. You didn’t think I was going to run into books with those titles and just let it pass by, did you?

By the way, for those of you who, like me, are not one hundred sure of what a monograph is, I looked it up. According to Wikipediaa monograph is a work of writing upon a single subject, usually by a single author. Librarians consider a monograph to be a nonserial publication complete in one volume or a finite number of volumes.

Pees On Earth
Over the years, I have run across a number of books whose subject matter or central idea I can only qualify as unique. Of course unique may also be a euphemism for bizarre but let’s not forget that sometimes bizarre merely indicates that I didn’t think of it first or, and this is more to the point, I would never think of it. Does that just show me to be not very creative? Do I miss that “gift” of looking at the world from a unique angle? Who would have thought in a million years of photographing themselves takin’ a whiz in public? *laughs* Do I hear Monty Python? And now for something completely different…

On Ms. Jong’s own web site, she has a page devoted to her book Pees on Earth.  She explains how this unusual idea came to her and transformed itself into a concept for the book.

It was the summer of 1998. I was 22 years old, at a rooftop in TriBeCa. By the time I left, I really had to pee. I had no patience to wait on line for the overused, overcrowded, and overrated bathroom. I walked out onto the street instead, and found an office desk thrown on the curbside. I squatted behind it and released what felt like, “ah, freedom!”

I pulled my pants back up and walked away from a stunt I wanted no one to have witnessed. I was thrilled, but I wasn’t satisfied. I turned around to see what I’d left behind. The suspect puddle looked more like something from a murder scene than a drunken adventure. I captured it with my camera like a villain obsessively collecting the records of his crimes. With one snapshot, I claimed the anonymous puddle, and have reclaimed it again and again.

The page also includes 24 pictures taken from the book to give all of us a taste of just what the book is all about. She states that “the act of peeing [is] a means to reevaluate the spaces I find myself in—to make them my own.” I’m sure anybody like me is going to immediately think of an animal marking its territory but she goes on to say: “The experience is a combination of secrecy, physicality, grace, and the prospect of unexpectedly getting caught. Most of all, it is one of sensational peace.”

And speaking of getting caught, Miss Rosen, a communications and marketing strategist based in New York City, interviewed Ellen Jong on April 15, 2010.

I’ve always had bit of penis envy, but only when it comes to peeing in public. I’ve admired how men could just whip it out and go with no hassle—unlike us ladies who have to find somewhere discreet to pee, and make sure we don’t splash our shoes. So, needless to say, when I met Ellen Jong, who has been taking self-portraits for the past ten years while pissing wherever the damn well hell she wants, I was fully in awe. Jong has shamelessly leveled the playing field, proving women can do anything guys can do—and not ruin their shoes.

The amusing blog posting goes on as a dialogue between Miss Rosen and Ellen Jong talking about the book Pees on Earth. There is an amusing story of Ms. Jong’s attempt to pee in Times Square in New York City and getting a summons for it. A couple of years later when the cops catch her with a open bottle of Tequila and check her licence, they discover there is a warrant for her arrest because she ignored the summons. How many of us get to tell a personal story of being arrested, booked and spending the night in jail? Then again, do we want to add that notch to our belt?

Getting To Know My Husband’s Cock
Published in 2010, this catchy title with a four letter word probably makes many do a double take. While the book may at first give you a risqué idea of its contents, the photographs are an exploration by a newly married woman of her new life partner.

“This recollection of the first three years leading up to my wedding day and my first year of marriage is a love song in photographs and text where the male body is used as a metaphor for love; his cock is a symbol of manhood, it affects me profoundly, challenges, indulges and intoxicates me.”

I note that the forward of the book was written by one Cindy Gallop. For those not familiar with my writings, I do refer to Ms. Gallop as the author of both the web site and the book called “Make Love Not Porn”. I would say that both Ms. Gallop and Ms. Jong are among the more unique members of the New York citizenry.

Ms. Jong has put together a web site dedicated to the book. The section called “Inside the Book” gives you a glimpse into Ms. Jong project of love with the first 19 pages of her opus.

Uploaded by SelfPublishBeHappy on Sep 14, 2010
Video Book Talk: Getting to Know My Husband’s Cock by Ellen Jong
Ellen Jong talks about her book ‘Getting to Know My Husband’s Cock’

Final Word
Ms. Jong has a different perspective on the world. The above two literary endeavours are unique and I will leave it up to the next potential reader and or buyer to decide if these two books are merely novelty items or worthy additions to their home library. Whatever the case, the titles of the books are catchy enough to make anybody stop and take a second look. Hmmm, now that I think of it, I am always looking for something novel for Christmas and birthday gifts. With most people in the family already owning what they want or having the means of buying what they want, it’s always nice coming up with something which does fit the Monty Python requirement of now for something completely different. Gee, wouldn’t December 25th be great time to unwrap a gift entitled Pees on Earth?

References

Ellen Jong
Artist Statement
I am interested in the things that are overlooked in the every day. These things are objects, landscapes, expressions on faces, gesters in the body, behavioral responses, more, they are micro-moments loaded with information to further my intimacy and understanding of myself and the world around me.

Pees on Earth
Pees On Earth is my first photographic monograph, an intimate travelogue and a pursuit for identity, self and freedom.

Miss Rosen – April 15/2010
Ellen Jong: Did they think I was dangerous?
[Interview with the photographer]

Getting To Know My Husband’s Cock
a self published monograph with photographs and text; published in NYC (2010)

Getting To Know My Husband’s Cock: Forward

I love this book.

I love it because it is a beautifully atmospheric collection of photographs that tell an honest, intimate and insightful love story.

Getting To Know My Husband’s Cock is the ultimate love token.

When you love someone, you love getting to know them. You love learning and exploring and finding out everything about them. And you particularly love getting to know those most intimate parts of them that give you, and them, enormous pleasure and joy in the knowing.

I would love to see Ellen’s book inspire everyone to create their own Getting To Know My Husband’s Cock. Or Getting To Know My Wife’s Pussy – every variation thereof, whether straight, gay or whatever. How much would you love your loved one to create a book like this for you? How much would they love it if you created one for them? This is sexual scrap-booking of the very highest order.

Ellen has chosen to share her love story with all of us. The rest of us might only ever share ours with our loved one – but I cannot imagine anyone who would not be blown away to receive a gift of love as true, and as beautiful, as this.

Cindy Gallop
New York
March 2010

my blog: Cindy Gallop: Make Love Not Porn
[Check out the speech Ms. Gallop gave at the 2009 TED conference]

my blog: Book Review: Make Love Not Porn by Cindy Gallop

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