de poepende man

About comics, art, and sanitation rather than language, taking off from today’s Zippy:

(#1) Zippy confronts Anthony Gormley’s sculpture Exposure.

[Late-breaking news. John Baker argues, in a comment on this posting, that the model is in fact Celeste Roberge’s Raising Cairn — with thoroughly convincing visual evidence.]

In the first panel, Zippy assumes that the squatting man is  defecating, something that people are expected to do in private — though this is a piece of public sculpture, so the man is engaging in what sanitation specialists call open defecation. And in the second panel, the squatting man seems to allude to human beings’ having befouled the earth. Defecation wasn’t Gormley’s own interpretation, but it’s not an unreasonable one.

To come: on Exposure; on Gormley; and on open defecation.

The sculpture. There are many sites discussing Exposure, but I’ve chosen a piece from the Sanitation Updates site on 9/19/10:


The 26 metre “Shitting Man”: Has a monument to open defecation been erected in The Netherlands? You might think so after Dutch residents christened Antony Gormley’s 26 metre high monumental sculpture “de poepende man” or the “shitting man”.

The real name of the giant crouching man overlooking the Dutch Markermeer lake is “Exposure”. Weighing 26 tonnes and taking six years to build, the sculpture was unveiled on 17 September 2010 in Lelystad, central Netherlands.

As one approaches it, [Gormley] explains: “The nature of the object changes. You can see it as a human form in the distance. It becomes more abstract the closer you get to it. And finally it becomes a chaotic frame through which you can look at the sky.”

… The elements meet at particular nodal points – starbursts of metal – the most congested of which are at the head, throat, heart, stomach and genitals of the form. These roughly correspond to the “chakras”, or energy points, of ancient Hindu thought. “It is a re-examination of the body as an energy system, rather than as a system of bone, muscle and skin,” says Gormley.

When asked if he took offence to his sculpture’s nickname, Gormley said:

“I don’t mind that at all. […] Having a crap is one of the most relaxing and intimate moments one has in the world.”

Read more about the sculpture in an article by Charlotte Higgins in the Guardian of 27 August 2010.

More on Gormley in a 5/31/14 posting about him on this blog. Much of his sculpture focuses on the human form, especially the male form. Three examples from various points in his career (more in my earlier posting):

(#3) Untitled (for Francis), 1985

(#4) Critical Mass II, 1995

(#5) LAND, 2015: five life-size standing scultures installed at various Landmark sites in the UK

Open defecation. From Wikipedia:

(#6) Cartoon used (in variants) in a number of media reports on open defecation in India

Open defecation is the practice of people defecating outside and not into a designated toilet. The term is widely used in literature about water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) issues in developing countries. Open defecation causes public health problems in areas where people defecate in fields, urban parks, rivers, and open trenches in close proximity to the living space of others.

Eliminating open defecation is the main aim of improving access to sanitation worldwide and is a proposed indicator for sustainable development goals. Even if toilets are available, people still need to be convinced to refrain from open defecation and use toilets. Therefore, the need for behavioural change is critical in addition to the provision of toilets. A preference for open defecation may be due to traditional cultural practices or lack of access to toilets, or both.

According to this article, open defecation is enormously common in (in descending order) India, Nigeria, Indonesia, Ethopia, Pakistan, and Niger.

4 Responses to “de poepende man”

  1. John Baker Says:

    Are you sure this is supposed to be Gormley’s Exposure? Exposure is not filled with rocks, and this squatting man, unlike Exposure, is almost kneeling. Admittedly, I don’t have a better candidate.

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