Media Installation 1994
x 13 x 10
cardboard tubes, latex, wax
comic commentary on sexuality and gender issues in American culture
This installation, like Feedher, plays on peoples obsessions
with body image. Yet, through the use of both playfulness and fear,
a reflection upon the human bodys aging process is more heavily
emphasized. Unlike the Feedher, this work presents a duality between
sagging (latex) breasts and phalluses and condoms, and speaks of the
devaluing of the aged by society. The installation is assembled in a
manner which is conducive to movement under and through a stalactite
and stalagmite landscape, so that I may channel the action of the viewer
in this surreal moment of erection and flaccidity. These standing breasts
screech out in contradiction to their penis-like erectness. The hanging
breasts also signify the emptying of female fertility, and stress the
decline of sexual life and its purposes. The environment thus implies
a gradual loss of all life. I intended for the viewer to wade through
this Amber Forest, so that the smell and texture of the latex would
overpower their senses. Simple rigid structures obstruct the viewers
path while soft saggy formations sway into their faces. The feminine
and masculine are merged to form both the vulnerable and rigid.
Laura Cottingham notes that, for Kant, woman, like nature, is
a passive thing, an object disavowed of subjective autonomy, except
for her purposes, by which we must assume he meant childbearing
and sexual attractiveness (to the male). As an object or a landscape,
not person, she/woman is referred to [by Kant] as That.
Although woman is projected as a landscape form in this Amber Forest,
the experience of the installation cancels a possible affirmation of
Kants thinking, and therefore contradicts the objectification
of woman. The female has been joined with the male in a surreal manner.
The breast has been divorced of its lactating abilities and suggests
age. Breast = Phallus and Phallus = Breast, but neither can ejaculate
or leak. This indirectly places the possessors of each organ on equal
terms. Neither is presented as attractive nor displayed for the appreciation
of its purposes only. The piece separates woman from childbearing
and man from childgiving. Both sexes are presented as passive.
In order to build this piece, I made breast casts from women of all
ages. This was an intimate and interesting experience, for each woman
came to my studio with her own individual attitude. Some were nervous
about exposing their breasts to me for the casting; others knew me well
enough to feel quite comfortable. The conversations also varied with
each individual during the procedure, which made me feel
like some kind of strange doctor trying to fix a broken breast.
My varying responses and feelings toward each woman and the unique experiences
I had with them worked as a catalyst in forming a questionnaire for
these women that asked how they felt about the experience, what they
thought about the installation I was creating, and what kind of feelings
they have toward breasts and peoples obsessions with them.
Once I obtained the breast casts, I pulled a positive wax form that
was identical to the original breast. This positive was then attached
to a cardboard tube and covered with additional wax; the result was
a fluid, yet stiff phallus that still maintained the breasts form.
I then applied six coats of latex to the outside of this phallic form,
let each coat dry, and rolled the latex off, thus creating the second
element of the installation, the long and sagging breast-condoms. My
use of latex as a medium in this piece was influenced by many of the
works of Eva Hesse.
Jacques Lacan spoke of the phallus as symbolizing the power of masculinity
and how its absence evokes fear; this leads me to ponder how the Amber
Forests reference to a presence of the penis in combination with
the breast forms might affect my audience. I have given a female for
the power of a prick. This ambiguous notion is probably
unfathomable for some viewers and highly entertaining for others. So,
why shouldnt we acknowledge the similarities between breasts and
penises? In the presence of either, the feeling of power and
fear is often projected on to these organs. One only needs to
be reminded of the power of advertising and its use of cleavage;
and the fear of rape which can only be performed by a dick.