Between the Magic and Machine
For some mothers, breastfeeding is a form of sublime magic. For others, any magic is dispelled by a relentless machine: the breast pump.
Between the Magic and the Machine calls out the dual nature of breastfeeding. It can be fulfilling while exhausting, and a token of both liberation and confinement.
The physicality of producing milk amidst commercialized pumps and bottles, concealed from the public gaze, transforms a mother to an antisocial factory.
This exhibit seeks to capture the contradictions of modern breastfeeding in Europe and America. Emily Bhargava’s crowdsourced photo assemblage of pumping places and daily routines makes visible the hidden isolation. In turn, Eva Zasloff’s illuminated breastmilk reveals the sublime: pure light reflecting from life-giving globules. And yet, Laura Breiling’s illustrations of mothers’ faces as they communally nurse—and pump—convey defiance, nonchalance, and a deep reservoir of strength.
This inherent contradiction deepens when we closely examine its “parts” and “outputs.” The glossy sheen of Aimee Gilmore’s chrome-plated pump attachments set against the earthy milk sedimentation of her 140-square-foot prints contrasts a pristine machine with curdled milk. Not to lose sight of the body amidst the “process,” Sally Hewitt’s collection of mounted breasts and body parts, some augmented with rubber nipples, recenters the female form in the act of breastfeeding.
The anchor of the exhibit, an emotional window, is offered through Lakisha Cohill’s camera as she transforms the archetype of the nursing mother into royalty by situating black women in ways that evoke a lineage of female divinity.
These perspectives challenge you to hold the magic and the machine in the same moment—and to consider an exchange in which the machine is sublime, and the magic is relentless.
- Laura Zittrain, Curator
Director, Connection Lab
Print Maker and Sculptor