lynn mowson boobscape (2016-2018) Photo: Kerry Leonard
Dr lynn mowson is a sculptor whose practice is driven by the entangled relationships between human and non-human animals, in particular agricultural animals. Her sculptural research has been featured the books The Art of the Animal, Lantern Press, 2015, Carol J Adam’s Neither Man nor Beast, Bloomsbury, 2018, and her work is on the front cover on the forth coming edited collection Animaladies, Bloomsbury, 2018. She has exhibited widely in Australia, and her work was included in SPOM: Sexual Politics of Meat at The Animal Museum, LA, in 2017. lynn is currently Vice-Chair of the Australasian Animals Studies Association, and Research Assistant and Committee Member for the Human Rights and Animal Ethics Research Network. Further information can be found at her blog: www.lynnmowson.com
My recent series boobscape (2016-2018), above, emerged from a feminist phenomenological examination of the exploitation of motherhood on the lives of dairy cows. From an initial starting point of udders, the work quickly extended to incorporate other mammalian breasts – and the concerns spread to further entanglements, and the possibilities and limitations of species blurring, multi-species nurturing, mammal-free milk, and the environmental impacts on the more-than-human world we inhabit.
Earlier my sculptural practice was concerned with the suffering body. My exhibition beautiful little dead things, 2014, was comprised of a series of sculptures created in response to the lives and deaths of dairy cows, and in particular the slaughter of fetal calves and the use of their skins for the luxury leather ‘slink’. The exhibition consisted of an installation of latex skins; adultforms, babyforms, sacs and screens – slink, and wax fleshforms; bodies in varying states of fragmentation, from the full body to the fleshy lump – fleshlumps
These sculptures reveal a process of traumatic witnessing; they are contradictory objects, with no singular reading, they draw attention to the violence of fragmentation and the precarious nature of empathy. Whilst these objects bear traces of violence, mass-production and dis-assembling; they are torn, flayed, rent and ‘butchered’, each object is also tended to, cared for and completely unique. The tension between violence and care in my work is, I suggest, a consequence of the trauma of witnessing and bearing witness to animal suffering.
My research explores two pivotal themes, firstly the relationship between the figure and empathy within the context of sculpture. Secondly, it examines trauma and witnessing in relation to the suffering animal; the ‘absent referent’. The project draws these concerns together to consider the nexus between empathy, trauma and witnessing as they operate in sculptural practice and the field of animal studies.