Anni Puolakka
Maitopuisto (Milk Park)   [ commission ]
Format Video | Document media Video, colour, sound, 5:00 min  | Issue date 2022  | To be seen in dis/appearing subjects, re.act.feminism #3 – polyphonies. interferences. drifts., 2022-2023  |   | Curated by EVBG (Marie Sophie Beckmann & Julie Gaspard)
Anni Puolakka (*1983) lives and works in Helsinki, Finland. Their praxis ranges from performance, video, and installation to drawings and text-based works. Often appearing themself in performances or video work, Puolakka’s body takes on a central role in their work. When asked to respond to the archive for the third iteration of re.act.feminism, Puolakka had just become a parent. This new role coloured the creation process and influenced its outcome significantly. Having previously questioned what it would mean to be your own baby in "2 B Ur Own BB: Part 1" (2019), Puolakka additionally explored the concept of their body as nourishment for others in "Timanttimaha (Diamond Belly)" (2018).

artist's website:

Probing the boundaries we draw when it comes to relationships, the giving and taking of yourself, was examined explicitly in Maitopuisto (Milk Park). Connecting to Jumana Manna’s work Familiar (2007), Puolakka bodyfeeds a person similar to them; similar age, sexuality, and gender expression. Is the artist nourishing another version of themself? Non-normative milk relations, like this, often appear in Renaissance and Baroque art, be it personified by wet nurses, goddesses, or a daughter feeding her father. Jutta Gisela Sperling writes in her book Roman Charity - Queer Lactations in Early Modern Visual Culture (2016) that even the nursing Madonna is a very special mother nursing a very special son, one endowed with a corporate persona consisting of all believers in Christ. Puolakka chose a public park to stage this intervention. Named Lenin Park (Leninin puisto), the setting is especially poignant when considering the timing of the event: Russia has recently invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Parks, says Puolakka, are weird amalgamations of concepts such as nature, control, public and private. Concepts that can also be connected to the act of bodyfeeding.

The act is quiet, tender, a moment between two people, the camera lingers over the scene and then moves on. (Julie Gaspard)

Courtesy Anni Puolakka

Selected work from the re.act.feminism archive
Jumana Manna: Familiar

I chose Jumana Manna's work 'Familiar' from the archive because, to me, it manifests so powerfully how individual lives are ephemeral – and what time does and means to us, to our relationships [relations = family]. The work is emancipatory, resisting the taboo of adult breastfeeding, which is a subject in my own practice as well. I wonder whether Manna's mother is an artist, as I assume it would be easier to ask a colleague for such a scene rather than a retired school teacher like my own mother. I also wonder how the public act of performing for audiences via the camera and the private act of having this particular parent-child interaction affected one another. I'm fascinated about how experiencing and making art can sometimes enable us, or at least me, to do things I wouldn't otherwise dare to do.