Written by Dani Abulhawa

Nicola Canavan’s MILK garnered a lot of attention not only because it subverted the commercial space of St. Anne’s Square (as all the Hazard performances did in their own ways), but also because it raised a political question through the physical display of a woman expressing breast milk in a disused shop window. Several other performances addressed political issues explicitly – a notable example in reference to this piece would be No More Page Three, who put together a tour of great women, also located in shop windows – across the city centre.

Canavan entered the window space wearing a long red evening gown and a headdress of flowers that covered her face entirely. She was positioned, with the help of an usher onto an ornate chair in the right hand window. In the left hand window were several artefacts, including a taxidermy butterfly pinned behind a frame, the skull of an animal – perhaps a dog or a fox, and a decanter with two sherry glasses. After the expressing of milk, Canavan was joined by her partner who entered carrying their baby. Canavan removed the veil of flowers from her head and her partner, Kris (who also presented work at the event in a piece entitled The Leveller), poured the expressed milk into two sherry glasses. The couple toasted each other before drinking the milk, and following this Canavan returned to her seat and breast-fed their child for the remainder of the performance.

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Questions surrounding the act of breast feeding in public have been circulating the UK’s collective public consciousness recently, with reports that women have been asked to refrain from feeding their babies in restaurants and other public places, alongside a general feeling that breasts are seen to be more publicly acceptable when they are presented in a sexual context (Page 3, men’s magazines, etc.) rather than when women are feeding babies.

To be continued on 18.7.14 …

Image credit: Sarah Spanton, Nicola Canavan

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