David Lomas: A Language of Flowers: Surrealism, Psychoanalysis, and the Botanical Imaginary
Freud’s dream of a botanical monograph contains a reproach directed against him for having neglected the science of botany. In botany post-Linneaus, a vision of plant sexuality emerges that resembles in its freedom from constraints Freud’s account of the polymorphously perverse character of human sexuality before it comes under control of the Oedipus complex. My paper will argue that for modern artists working in a surrealist idiom, many of them women, botany – acting in concert with psychoanalysis – offers the means to defy restrictive norms governing gender and sexual relations. I will survey various artists where I believe this to be the case, examining in depth Helen Chadwick’s “Piss Flowers” (1991-2), cast from cavities produced by peeing into snow. When inverted, these casts present a surprising analogy to the pistils and stamens of a typical, bisexual flower. Drawing subversively upon Freud’s urethral eroticism, combined with her knowledge of Linnaeus, the “Piss Flowers” (created at a moment when Chadwick was collaborating with AIDS charities) propose a queer alternative to human sexual dimorphism.
It is Free