UBMD (untitled breast milk drawings)

Abstract

UBMD (2002-present) by Margaret Morgan is a series of untitled breast milk drawings rendered in pencil, gouache and human breast milk. The drawings combine two representational systems, the indexical and the mimetic, to appropriate Rosalind Krauss' terms on photography: Milk squirted directly from the artist's breast leaves a dark trace of lines, drips and splashes, a direct record of the action, an index no less immediate than the action of light on a photosensitive surface.

How to Cite

Morgan, M., (2013) “UBMD (untitled breast milk drawings)”, Studies in the Maternal 5(1), p.1-2. doi: https://doi.org/10.16995/sim.120

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UBMD (2002-present) by Margaret Morgan is a series of untitled breast milk drawings rendered in pencil, gouache and human breast milk. The drawings combine two representational systems, the indexical and the mimetic, to appropriate Rosalind Krauss' terms on photography: Milk squirted directly from the artist's breast leaves a dark trace of lines, drips and splashes, a direct record of the action, an index no less immediate than the action of light on a photosensitive surface.

For the mimetic, we see pictorial rendering, illustrations of fragments of a baby's body: hand, foot, ear, eye. The two schemata coexist on a single picture plane: on the one hand, milky drips and sprays and on the other, baby pictures. In UBMD, the two systems, the indexical and the mimetic, bounce back and forth, fort and da, a child's game of presence and absence.

Let us consider the indexical: The milky squirts are on the side of the abject, that which provokes anxiety in the subject by operating at the threshold of subjectivity: as Julia Kristeva has argued, liminal non-objects like faeces, urine, semen, blood and breast milk, create a conflict for the subject because they remind the subject that I am not as finite and whole as must needs be believed. Yet the milky squirts also invoke art history: Jackson Pollock's action paintings, heroically recorded by Hans Namuth in his film of Pollock's staged process dripped onto glass for the camera. Nor yet is UBMD kin to the informe, to employ another of Krauss' terms, of the Robert Morris of '68 or Richard Serra of the same year. Yet UBMD functions on another register: as traces of the potency of the mammarian function, they mark the moment of maternal refusal intrinsic to the very process itself: As lactating breasts are passed over the picture plane, the milk feeds not the child, but the mother, the artist.

Let us also briefly consider the mimetic: the drawings are illustrative, delicate renderings of details of the baby. Yet upon closer examination one may glean another subject depicted: it is the mother, her selfhood dispersed against the child's not-yet-formed, a mother whose presence none-the-less is felt: a nipple between fingers, the plane of a belly beneath the press of a hand: the mother is, contingent, partial, but insistently present.

Margaret Morgan, Untitled breast milk drawing

Margaret Morgan UBMD#10 (untitled breast milk drawings) 2002-present Pencil, gouache and human breast milk 10 3/8" w x 13" h

Margaret Morgan, Untitled breast milk drawing

Margaret Morgan UBMD#11 (untitled breast milk drawings) 2002-present Pencil, gouache and human breast milk 10 3/8" w x 13" h

Margaret Morgan, Untitled breast milk drawing

Margaret Morgan UBMD#12 (untitled breast milk drawings) 2002-present Pencil, gouache and human breast milk 10 3/8" w x 13" h

Margaret Morgan, Untitled breast milk drawing

Margaret Morgan UBMD#13 (untitled breast milk drawings) 2002-present Pencil, gouache and human breast milk 10 3/8" w x 13" h

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Margaret Morgan

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