no matter how many notes I make – the weather, the latex age/batch, and just who knows what … conspire to affect the outcome – and most times these unknowables and uncontrollables are most welcomed – but when I really want a certain density / thickness to be reached so the boobs can hold their form without padding, and twice the casts have come off the mold too thin … it’s just too annoying
How can the use of traumatic knowledge drive the development of new visual languages of empathy and testimony? My recent sculptural series boobscape draws upon knowledges of the lives and deaths of dairy cattle. The madness and somewhat garbled hysteria of the witness, the repetitive compulsion to share and reveal, the necessity to communicate to another, and the inability or struggle to find shared language can also be the productive and generative force of animalady.
Skinning days. The bodies are taken down from their hanging position, and rubbed with talc, rubbing into the crevices, the pits, the groin. A sharp scalpel makes a cut through the skin, and then the process of skinning commences, pulling and rubbing down, pulling, stretching, releasing, it is an ugly task, on par with creating meat lumps from skulls. I’m sometimes callous with my little objects. Sometimes their grip on me is too strong, their tenderness fragility and exposure is too painful to bear. I become meat worker, butcher, in order to do this work, and I make amends [regrettably useless] with small objects. I counterbalance the butchering with the endless work of reparation.
Trauma and empathic witnessing erupt into the creative production processes, creating a divergence of methodologies and materialities, such as; tenderness, care, violence, damage and reparation. These contradictory methods are born not only from the witnessing but the trauma of bearing witness, and the maddening frustration of being positioned as the radical vegan freak, the out-there irrational-nutty-screw-loose-mushy-softy-weirdo-bunny-hugger-animal-lover.
Sometimes I stand at the edge of butchers shops, normally I rush by them, their smell envelops me, covers me in a layer of flesh and fatty tissue, the thick smell of cold death. I wonder at how normal this all seems to people, these lumps of bodies laid out, creatures whose lives were given and taken from them for a meal. How invisible yet visible the atrocity is.
boobscape alludes to milking machines, multi-breasted goddesses, boundary crossings and infringements between human and non-human animals, the abject and transgressive possibilities of milk and motherhood. boobscape is a monstrous amalgamation of paradoxical mammaries; breasts and udders, teats and nipples, droopy, full and empty. The pieces grow together on the wall like mold. They linger discordantly between beauty and horror, between empathy and erasure, in doing so they develop the abject languages of empathic relations with our nonhuman fellow creatures.
Thrilled that Lori Gruen discusses my work in this video
“and this work is also meant to be in a very deep way, an empathetic work, and part of what’s happening is we’re meant to understand our embodiment and the embodiment of dairy cows, who are not thought to be worth thinking about need to be thought about and need to be paid attention to. And I think this work does this beautifully, and horribly … it does the messaging in a way that is really shocking, and importantly shocking, so it is political work, it’s political art in an important way, but it is also meant to evoke a certain type of empathetic engagement with other female bodies.”
Lori Gruen – Interview Animaladies: (2:40-4:00)
Let sleeping (with) dogs lie: crazy Animaladies exhibition celebrates interspecies collaborations in contemporary art.
‘Are we crazy to love and care for other species, at times more than other humans?’ asks co-curator Madeleine Boyd. ‘Other species often love us back in ways that are fulfilling and productive yet free from the conflicts of human experiences’… The exhibition accompanies an animal studies symposium, Animaladies, to be held 11–12 July at the University of Sydney which will focus on the role of madness reframed in terms of species, race and gender as ‘animaladies’. ‘The artworks in this exhibition are wonderful examples of the vibrancy of the field, and the contribution the arts make in animal studies scholarship,’ said co-curator Yvette Watt who lectures at the Tasmanian College of the Arts….
Collaborating with artists who craft words is an insightful and immensely enjoyable process – a push and pull of ideas and objects, a chance to have your work and practice reflected back to you. It is also daunting and overwhelming, my tongue thickens and I retreat into materials.
Sue’s encounter with my studio in Feb is written up: “lynn’s studio is full of flesh, so much. Even while it was expected it’s way too much for my eyes to take in. It feels fatty, reminiscent of both the vernix of my children and the lamb chops of my childhood. It is overwhelmingly bruised. An assault with a cause. In this uneasy place of seductive horror I am put in mind of what I have always imagined would be evoked for me at the London waxworks I read of as a child. But here there is a sharper edge of wit, pathos and anger. … The bodies around us pulsate, and in these palpitations we discuss what we have been reading.”
Sue’s upbringing on a diary farm is informative, she questions the size and scale of my maquettes – calling out that they little resemble “the udders of a cow who is milked to a schedule, year after year, when her udders fill to their capacity, stretched tight for maximum gain, so as to be milked until the swish of milk in the bubble at the end of the milking machine slows to a dribble or a bubble.” She is right, these udders have been drawn from images before the Animal Industrial Complex swelled and overburdened udders – these are from diagrams of 19th C ‘healthy udders’, but also they are maquettes / small studies, as I test and try out the forms and materials in which I work. But Sue’s responses remind me that my attention is on those contemporary stretched, overfilled udders, udders blighted by overlooked and under-tended mastitis, the udders of cows who rarely feel the touch of a gentle hand, udders of cows swollen and sore, cows that are slaughtered while they are still ‘teenagers’ already spent.
Sue’s response to our session concludes with: “So, I will talk with lynn of the veins that marked a milker’s teats, as marked and as thick as my own breastfeeding breasts, despite the concern we both share, that perhaps analogies between a human breast and that of a cow is anthropomorphic, perhaps humanist. I will speak with her of the heaviness to the udders of the older cows, most of them with each quadrant swinging with the weight and shape of a human baby bottle. They hang low, never quite to the ground, but close enough and while they are all kinds of sizes, larger and looser as the cow ages, they generally match the five-inch rubber teats that I used to train the poddy calves that drank milk I took from the mix of the cows in our herd.” [Sue Pyke]
First cast from the clay mould, the udders were too small for the ceiling. Working on human scale is a disorienting phenomena and appears too small and delicate. These seem to want excess and multiplicity – but I’ll work with and against that. This piece worked better on the wall. Some initial fiddling with milk ‘strings’ some stained with a red hue, some spilling across the floor.
Having way too much fun with the relationship between udder and utter [a word I tend to utterly overuse]. This clay mould is ready to cast. I really enjoy the strings in the background looking like thin streams of milk – I’d been thinking more elaborately of streams of white silicon – but maybe strings are able to do the job just as effectively.