The blue-tongued skink named Pickles scuttles across the hardwood floor, its spastic progress monitored by two curious house cats. But Pickles is not your average foot-long lizard living in a SOMA studio, especially not this afternoon. At this moment his little reptilian bowels are refreshingly empty. He has just voided all over the chest of the lady of the house, Simone 3rd Arm, the Cyberpiss Goddess of Annihilating Feces.
"Skink piss doesn't smell so bad," says Simone, wiping herself off with a paper towel, "but the white, pukelike spooge that spews out -- that stinks."
Fortunately, cleaning up piss and poop is nothing new for Simone. It is her business. For the past eight years, her performance art and videos have featured the timeless, classic elements of urine and feces -- peeing into buckets, shooting cranberry enemas onto a canvas. Somebody's got to do it.
The only clue to her bizarre trade in the apartment, however, is a toilet seat mounted on the wall, with stirrups wired on either side. On a shelf, another toilet seat boasts circuit boards glued all over it.
"That's the commodem," says Simone.
After Pickles' little mistake is cleaned up, we sit in front of the Sony computer monitor and Simone pops in a VHS tape shot with friends, an example of her growing mail-order business. The color-Xerox cover reads: "Drink cyberpiss and save your soul ... lemonade flavor ... drink from my bowl."
She appears on-screen nude, her thin, twentysomething body squatting over a container. Her wavy red hair is set off by extremely exaggerated eye makeup. "Hi, I'm Simone 3rd Arm, the cyberpiss goddess," says the figure, "and I've come to you today to share with you some more cyberpiss lemonade."
On her inner thighs is written the word "SALVATION." She dances a bit to some loud industrial noise, then lets loose into the bucket. It makes a sound that is truly disgusting, you betcha, no matter which art magazine you read. But it's also the sound of an entrepreneur filling a unique market niche.
After years of producing SOMA theater shows, where slaves would receive enemas and serve pancakes to the audience -- not necessarily in that order -- Simone began to burn out from the pace.
"I kind of lost it, and all I could do was pee," she says matter-of-factly. " 'Cause it was something I already had to do. So that was my way of getting up in the morning and doing art, was videotaping myself peeing. I sold it to somebody, which made it even more practical, and I started peeing places, and every time I did it became enchanting."
Why the name 3rd Arm?
"I was in an unconscious state and came out, and I was reaching for something," she replies, popping in another performance tape. "It's some kind of growth, protruding from part of my body. More arms. I think it extends from Kali, Shiva, or something."
OK, then why the title Annihilating Feces?
"It was poetic. I liked it; it seemed like a good caption."
So which is more appealing, urine or feces?
"I pee more. It's simpler. Feces is fine, but I think it has to be done in the right context. I think of it as a different process. I pee to cleanse and purify."
Her cat crawls onto my lap and immediately begins shedding all over the place.
"I did it one time in the desert when I had a bladder infection, and right away it was gone. You don't have to take antibiotics. Just one gulp, it's gone."
What's most astounding about Simone and her industry of pee is that it doesn't seem unexpected. Madonna revealed on Letterman that she relieves herself while in the shower. This year Re/Search books published Paul Spinrad's Guide to Bodily Fluids, and William Morrow released The Portable Scatalog, a handsome repackaging of excerpts from the 1891 thriller Scatalogic Rites of All Nations. Albert Camus' nephew Nelson Camus also made news this year as the inventor of a urine-powered battery. And a homemade video of Chuck Berry is still floating around the underground circuit of the rocker peeing into his girlfriend's mouth. As the Washington Post might say, it seems to be a trend.
Pee doesn't always pay the bills, so you expand your net: Simone also does butoh dance, can be seen in strip clubs, works out of a private S/M dungeon, has occasional slaves run her errands, sings in the bands Exterminating Angel and MV Inc., publishes her own comic, and acts in and directs movies ("Sometimes two an afternoon, two or three. Shaving movies, spanking videos, bondage"). And then there's the math and multimedia classes at City College.
"It's not what I do, but where I do it in the context that I do it," says Simone. We thumb through her scrapbook -- butoh performance leaflets, dungeons, girl-girl catfights, a shot of Timothy Leary reading while she dances. "If I do something really heavy, I don't like to do it in a drunk cocaine scene, some kind of club. I'd rather do it in a cave, and make it more magical and surreal."