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In Session, (28): Life Imitates Art
The Lay Psychiatrist helps the Piss Christ find meaning in red yellow
Before I checked out Andres Serrano and his infamous Piss Christ, I assumed it was an installation which featured actual urine. It turns out a dashboard Jesus was dropped into a jar of piss, and photographed. The photograph was used to justify a massive defunding of the arts in America. Serrano’s urine was described as a red-yellow liquid, which is concerning. That was thirty-six years ago, and now life is imitating art. Piss Christ, the performance artist, is arriving for a session.
I watched him pause to straighten his tie before vanishing into the entryway of my building. I didn’t expect him to be so well dressed, but of course, he’s playing Vegas now, and making a lot of money. When he came through the door I noticed his shoes. I always look at the shoes. That pair set him back north of a grand. His caps were so white his smile was blinding.
In composition, one imperfection is essential, because perfection cannot breathe. In his case it was his complexion. His skin was reddish yellow. I suggested he go to a gastroenterologist. “It must be jaundice,” I said. “Some kind of tropical fever maybe.”
“There’s no detectable reason why I’m yellowing,” he said. “so it must be psychological. I think I’m too identified with the Piss Christ persona thing.”
He sat in one of the red leather chairs, which vouched for his good taste. He would have clashed with the yellow one. I moved behind my desk. Normally a psychiatrist wouldn’t put a desk between himself and the client, but I’m not a professional.
“Possibly the yellowing is a materialization of cowardice,” I said. “There are numerous examples in western genre literature of a man turning yellow, and there’s at least one sadistic albino.”
“You’re funny,” he said.
“It’s the foundation of lay psychiatry,” I said. “But let’s look at the elephant in the room. You submerge yourself in a tank of fake urine, which I assume contains chemicals, in the life imitates art exhibit at the Bellagio, is that right?”
“The management at the Bellagio are sticklers for authenticity when it comes to art installations,” he said.
“Then you use actual urine?”
He laughed again. I think he was high. “It’s water with a vegetable dye that doesn’t transfer to the skin. That’s why I’m guessing it’s a psychological issue.”
“I hate stating the obvious, but you are an artist who has taken the name of Piss Christ, and you have an art installation where you mime the passion from inside a tank of yellow liquid. There’s a lot of focus on urine in your professional life. These yellow thoughts might be manifesting in your skin.
“Yellow Kid Weil was a famous con man whose name derived from ‘Hogan’s Alley and the Yellow Kid’ cartoon strip.’ So yes, artistic or literary associations can turn you yellow, especially in Chicago. You’ve made an artistic association with a famous photograph, and I suspect you’re identified with a jar of piss. I believe you can do better.”
“I make a thousand dollars a night.”
“Really? That much? For sitting in a tank of piss?”
“It’s just water. I breathe through a tube. It’s nothing traumatizing, not at a conscious level.”
“Then this is coming from the deep unconscious, from the essence of yellow emotional tone. It might be a rising sun or it might be a setting sun.” He didn’t laugh at that. “By the way, what’s your diet like?”
“Fruits and vegetables mostly … carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cantaloupe …”
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