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MILK. Gift, desire and loss.


(Conditions) of necessary giving.




Works with and about breast milk as a medium by Irini Athanassakis with essays by Eva Laquièze-Waniek, Antonio Lucci, Thomas Macho, Heinz Stahlhut, Ernst Strouhal, Marcus Steinweg und Elisabeth von Samsonow.
In German, English and French with translations by Tessa Stevenson and Jean-Loup Thébaud.
Book design: Nik Thoenen; photography: Pascal Petignat


So, at the beginning, there was milk. Because when life is given, a gift, the receipt of an additional offering becomes vital: (breast) milk. Milk, whether it is a given or not, is produced to be given and taken, greedily sucked, in fact. Not only is breast milk’s unique and partially undetermined, irreproducible composition the perfect nutrition for newborns, it is also the only suitable nutrition and experts consider it to be the gold standard by which human nutrition should be measured. Its sole purpose is to be given and, once taken, to enable the life and growth of the new(born). The giving of (breast) milk is central to the phenomenon of bonding, and consequently to the formation of the ego and the Other. Irini Athanassakis’ work with and about breast milk began with a series of drops on paper, right and left, incidental bright flecks on a white background. It developed into delicate, transparent mind maps, associative comments on the anatomy of breasts, the processes and experiences of lactation, the colostrum, and elucidations of thoughts on the mythology, technology and economy of breastfeeding. She continues in a long tradition of artistic work with bodily fluids, her contribution written in white. With the ultimate end of making a case for a (bio)praxia of necessary giving, she authoritatively follows and quotes the natural and social sciences, cultural studies and art, associating the disciplines by bringing them into spatial proximity on the milky paper, without, however, restricting them to the confines of causal chains. Notable authors accompany her search for the meaning of the Ocean of Milk in which, according to Indian mythology, everything else has its origin. (Cows are mothers, too.)