Australasian Animal Studies Association

Landscape and Mammary, Featuring R.A.W. Assmilk Soap – a collaborative matrix of equus assinus, homo sapiens, and the transformative processes of milksoap-making and imagination


As a durational, place-based performance, Landscape and Mammary has evolved from a fascination with the way milk (as a “dairy product” of the mammalian mother’s body) is linked to ecological place; for instance, livestock breeders know that one should never move a pregnant animal from her pasture right before she gives birth, because her thick first milk—known as colostrum— contains antibodies to the specific pathogens where she has been gestating. So the milk, in that sense, is made of the place, of everything the motherbody eats and breathes as she feeds the growing fetus and eventually the newborn. Borrowing the French tradition of savon au lait d’annesse (assmilk soap), Landscape and Mammary embodies this metaphor of milk~place nexus in a process of saponification, whereby milk from donkey companions (Rose and Passenger) is transformed and contained in special bars of soap. As a collaborative project, Landscape and Mammary invites human participants to contribute physical ingredients that signify a specific place or way of life – anything, from fur and fragments of bones or a bird’s nests to drops of oil and blood – for their own unique bar of Assmilk Soap. With the double-barrelled, imaginative cleansing power of R.A.W. Assmilk Soap, Landscape and Mammary aims to cleanse the many stains – whether visible or hidden – that pollute our bodies and our homelands.


Karin Bolender’s life/art practice roots in rural landscapes (all the faunal, floral, and mineral forms that inhabit them) and human acts of metaphor, memory, and imagination. Grounded in both poetics and performance art, Bolender explores the interwoven seams between our human selves and other beings, especially domestic species. Major projects of the past decade involve journeys through the rural American South with American Spotted she-Asses, Aliass and Passenger, and often in the company of other artists, musicians, passers-by, and barnyard inhabitants; these journeys include Little Pilgrim of Carcassonne in 2002, The Dead-Car Crossing in 2004, the “Can We Sleep in your Barn Tonight?” MYSTERY TOUR in 2006, and the ongoing She-Haw Transhumance series. Bolender operates the Rural Alchemy Workshop (R.A.W.) on a small ass farm in Carnesville, Georgia, U.S.A.