Floor installation of latex teats
Dimensions: 3 meters
Rug is a floor installation made of approximately 3000 latex teats carefully arranged in neat rows that make up the shape of a large circle. The organisation of the teats is reminiscent of a complex honeycomb pattern, an impression that is reinforced by the glowing ‘honey’ coloured teat.
Honey – like the milk with which it is often associated – figures in many sacred texts of the East and West where it represents all things sweet and pleasing to the palate, mind, and heart. Looked upon both as nutritious foodstuff and as psychic nourishment, honey designates health and happiness.
In this piece, the reference to the honeycomb has been articulated through an arrangement of latex teats from babies’ milk bottles. This further emphasises the link to nourishment, and the association of honey with milk. It also situates it in the everyday domain of mother-child relations, unlike the many great myths of mankind where honey is typically associated with and reserved for exceptional (male) people in this world and the next (as the drink of Greek gods, for example, or the tears of the Egyptian sun god Râ).
As an emotionally charged object, the teat is a point of mediation between mother and child, belonging to neither and both of them. The teat, a substitute for the mother’s nipple, signals at once the union of mother and child, and their separation. Occupying a space between subjectivity and externality, it is in Winnicottean terminology a ‘transitional object’.
In Rug, these loaded cultural and psychological references are set off against more specific aesthetic and art historical references. The simple, circular arrangement of the piece evokes Minimalist principles of literality, reduction, and repetition of abstract forms. Yet where Minimalist sculptures and installations are traditionally associated with the use of hard, impersonal industrial materials, Rug foregrounds realms of intimacy, sensuality, and interpersonal relations through the repeated pattern of multiple latex teats and their association with (mother’s) milk and honey. In place of literality and ‘honest’ materials (where ‘a brick is a brick’), it also introduces notions of substitution and pretence, and the potential of the ‘fake’ object for playful narration. In the context of the formal arrangement of the installation that alludes to Minimalism, the teat, understood a loaded narrative sign, registers as a subversive force of rupture and ambiguity. Hence, Rug could be seen as a domestic and humorous parody on Richard Long’s formal statements in remote and faraway places.