Water Wet Nurse, 2019, Floating Art – Cry Me a River, curated by Mette Woller, Vejle Kunstmuseum Photo: David Stjernholm
Text from catalogue:
I am currently working around the thematic of wet-nursing & cross-nursing: milk has, like the ocean, often been praised as cornucopian, as an infinite float of nourishment. But obviously what appears cornucopian, can’t live well under exploitation. One might say that milk cows serve the dairy industry as living dead, while coral reefs turn ghostly pale, revealing a detachment from the bodies, humans extract resources from. Under patriarchal, colonial & capitalist structures, wet-nursing has too often been a lethal exploitation, forcing mothers of specific color and class to serve others (and their babies). In some contexts though it has exemplified generous redistributions of care and parenthood, even between different species. A care deliberately given to someone/something not considered ’yours’.
Leaning into the exhibition’s conceptual framework, with my own research material in mind, my contribution to Cry Me a River is a fountain breast monster – wet nursing and sipping from the oceanic planet Venusmira or/and Vejle inlet. Its shape is partly inspired by Demodex Folliculorum, a mite living in the pores around our nipples and in our face. These mites, invisible to the human eye, are passed on during breastfeeding and usually causes no harm to the place they inhabit. The sculpture’s state of being reminds me of the term oceanic feeling, first used by Romain Rolland in a letter to Freud in 1927. The oceanic feeling is to feel in one with the world and it caused Freud lots of headaches. He concluded it was a left-over from a primitive ego-feeling, an infantile phase of not yet differentiating between oneself and other/s. Like when being breastfed the baby mistakes the breast for part of itself; but maybe the breast is a part of the baby?
When I read Lilith’s brood by Octavia Butler*, I was breastfeeding and the tentacular way of connecting described in the sci-fi trilogy, felt reminiscent of what I was: a hyper sensitive part of me feeding into my child. Confused by the aroused sensation and strange discomforts of dissipating myself – I understood that more than a milky giver/receiver transmission was at stake; a feedback loop of hormones, emotions, bacteria, nerve systems in contact beyond language. Breastfeeding suddenly felt like an alien portal into stranger and other ways of relating – speculatively releasing (splashing) breasts from being stuck in imagery of essentialist biological mothering and porn.
* an inspiration for the framework of Cry Me a River