What is the Perfume Project?

This blog is a constantly evolving forum for thoughts on perfume, perfume-making, plants (especially orchids and flora of the Pacific Northwest) and life in general. It started out chronicling the adventures of Olympic Orchids Perfumes, established in July 2010, and has expanded in other directions. A big part of the blog is thinking about the ongoing process of learning and experimentation that leads to new perfumes, the exploration of perfumery materials, the theory and practice of perfume making, and the challenges of marketing perfumes and other fragrance products. To counter my inherent grumpy tendencies, I try to write about something I appreciate at least once a week. Once in a while I get up on my soapbox and write about things that aren't at all related to perfumery. I am grateful to all of you, the readers, who contribute to the blog by commenting and making this a truly interactive perfume project.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

PERMISSION TO PEE IN YOUR PERFUME


The blog posts about O’Driu’s Peety, the perfume you’re supposed to mix with urine, have done exactly what the whole concept was designed to do, which is draw attention. The attention it gets from me, though, is not the giggling of kindergarten kids when they talk about "pee and poop", it’s not the disgust of prudes when they hear about fetishists who like to be peed on, it’s not the “eeewww … pee is dirty” reaction of people who want to appear fastidious, and it’s not the “Oh, my! How clever and original” reaction of the conceptual art critic wannabe striving to appear avant-garde. My reaction is a big sigh and a roll of the eyes, as I think, “OK, here we go again with more feeble attempts at pseudo-shock art as a marketing gimmick”.
I have to admit that I’m cynical about the whole mystique-of-urine thing, which seems to surface periodically and predictably in the art world, purportedly making some sort of statement by those who take themselves too seriously, or simply pandering to sophomoric tastes by scriptwriters and comedians. The best piss-performance art I ever experienced was not by an “artist”, but was performed by a young kid that I sometimes hung out with back when we were both young and charming, in the long-ago days before every gas tank locked automatically at the push of a clicker and every parking lot had a surveillance camera. This kid would, from time to time, go around to parking lots and pee in the gas tanks of vehicles that he (and I) considered obscenely large, wasteful, and ostentatious. This performance art, if you can call it that, actually made a point of sorts.
I’m not sure what point is made by the suggestion that consumers pee in Peety. Why pee in this perfume specifically? Why not pee in some other perfume? Was Peety formulated to produce a unique chemical reaction when combined with water (urine is more than 95% water, in case you were wondering), urea, salts, and trace amounts of various metabolites that depend partly on what foods, drink, and/or drugs one has consumed? We don’t know. Why do you need instructions or permission from the perfumer to add urine to your perfume? Why not piss into all of your perfumes and “make them your own”? Why not shit in them? Why not spit, drip blood, add ear-wax, toenail clippings or scabs, cry tears or drip sweat from your armpits into your perfumes? As long as we’re dealing with buzz-inducing “taboos”, why not add your semen if you’re a man, or your vaginal secretions if you’re a woman? How about your milk if you’re a lactating female? Any of these would be the ultimate in DIY modifications to a perfectly good perfume. Once you’ve finished with your body, you could start on your kitchen and wine rack. Then go on to your cleaning supply cupboard. Who knows? You might eventually make a masterpiece.
It seems that peeing (or depositing any other sort of bodily excretions/secretions) in a place that’s generally considered inappropriate will get (mostly) positive attention as long as it’s labeled “art”. If you’re just homeless, drunk, high, an exhibitionist, or have some other logical or illogical rationale that is not supported by a publicity campaign, it might get you attention on a small scale, but it might also get you arrested, fired from your job, or worse.

It’s depressing to think that it takes this kind of tactics to sell what is, by some accounts, a well-made perfume, and to think that the public needs to be told how to do something that might be construed as eccentric and imaginative if actually thought of independently.
In fact, I think that’s the aspect of Peety that I find most distasteful. I most emphatically don’t want to be told to do something that would ordinarily be considered benignly maladaptive, thereby becoming a pawn in someone else’s “performance art” piece cum advertising campaign. If I want to do something eccentric, I’ll make up my own scenario, thank you very much.

As far as I’m concerned, perfumed urine (or urinated-in perfume) can go to that great marketplace in the sky to take its place with pet rocks, chop sticks that double as straws, Santa Claus suits for dogs, chicken leashes with built in diapers, and other bad ideas. 

[All photos and the excerpt from Nina Paley's "Right to Pee" cartoon are from Wikimedia]

4 comments:

  1. Excellent post! When I read about the Peety (yes, I get it) concept, I immediately associated it with that old saying: "P*** up a rope." Probably not what the brand had in mind.

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  3. Yes, the marketing and associated "performance art" were obvious and dated but I much prefer the scent of Peety to many other relatively new fragrances like Vero Profumo Mito, Lutens Musk Khubal Khan or even the new NV creation Ashoka (some might consider my preference a kind of heresy). A lot of hype has gone into promoting every one of these perfumes and I could just as easily been a victim of one type of advertising as another. That being said I will not be adding pee to Peety or to to any of the others I mentioned above, although I am tempted to "personalize" a few of the scrubbers that I have laying around.

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    1. I haven't actually smelled Peety, so do not doubt that it is a well-made perfume and pleasant to wear. My comments had nothing to do with the perfume itself, which I obviously can't comment on, but rather with the marketing and "performance art" aspect of the whole phenomenon. If the perfume itself is good, that's all the more reason not to add urine to it. Maybe O'Drieu would like to send me a sample (perfume, not urine) so that I can evaluate it independent of the hype. I'm always up for smelling a good perfume, but I just can't bring myself to buy a sample.

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