A couple weeks ago, the Interaction Design team at KTH had an internal exhibition of design projects. Due to the pandemic, whereby we primarily work from home, it has been difficult to engage with each other’s design work. Thus, this exhibition was a chance for us to get together (in line with safe distancing) to share our work! I presented a new side project within my PhD that I started while on maternity leave last year, which I call Free the Nipple. Below are some images of my exhibition space and a draft project description. You can find more of the project’s process (and other project work) on my public instagram account.
This project explores bodily boundaries and social becomings within intimate care through the nipple as a threshold and interface during breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is a complex and often controversial topic grounded in tensions between desire and disgust, sexuality and sustenance. In navigating these tensions, this project peruses an ongoing journey of intimate care to understand the becomings of multiple, networked bodies and the vital force of breast milk.
Breast milk is an interesting bodily fluid because it is secreted, not excreted, for another human to ingest. This verbal distinction is significant because unlike many bodily fluids, breast milk is not discharged as waste, yet still carries with it connotations of disgust. This disgust has many layers, perhaps most commonly evidenced from those external to an immediate care network, but can also be felt by a woman in regards to her own breast milk or be suggested through a baby’s refusal to breastfeed. Though for many, breastfeeding is more than the secretion of breast milk from a mother to a child. It can also provide comfort and nurturing as signified by the usage of the term “nursing” over breastfeeding, which attempts to locate the complex social relations of care-giving and receiving. Inherent to both perspectives is an intricate web of chemical exchanges and changes that alter and disrupt involved bodies, and in which the vitality of breast milk is materialized. To unpack the sociomateriality of this involvement, I start with my own postpartum breasts as a strange interface between myself as a mother, my breastfeeding baby, and an intimate co-caretaker.