No Use Crying Over Spilt Milk

If you were running a Conservative government and found out your Arts Council had given a $9,000 grant to a performance artist to offer samples of women’s breast milk, what would you do?

Surely, there are many such governments that would use this example of performance art as the end of culture, civilization, or at least the grant making process. Not so in Canada.

The Canadian Council for the Arts has awarded Jess Dobkin the funds to create “Lactation Station” on July 13 at the Ontario College of Art and Design Professional Gallery. Audiences will be able to sample the milk in the “spirit of wine tasting.” [The government has no need to push this off to the Health Ministry: The milk, provided by six different women, will undergo the same screening and pasteurization as a Vancouver breast milk bank.]

The government’s response: The Arts Council operates at arm’s length and it would be inappropriate to interfere.

Of course, it hasn’t always been this way for Right-honorable Canadian administrations. There was quite a lot hue and cry for the funding of “30 years of Crap in Contemporary Art“ — yes, that kind of crap. Or, the time a grant of $1,300 was given to Mexican artist, Israel Mora, for his work at the Banff Centre: to ejaculate into glass vials as part of “an international artist exchange agreement.” [And I thought it was only hockey that got the Canadian juices flowing?]

The Canadian Arts Council is charged with funding artists who have “a positive message for Canadians.” What could be more positive than reminding us of our natural connections, our earlier innocence, and to try something we’ve never had the chance to taste (literally) before? And, it’s free!

Jess Dobkin puts this work in the frame of her ongoing artistic explorations and events:

We are living in a time when the dominant culture is systematically working to eradicate our rights and silence our self-expression. I believe in art as a force for change, and as a necessary document of our experience in these times. I believe that voicing our truths and asserting our realities through the creative process is integral to our resistance and survival.

So, let us praise the Canadian patience, openness, and humor. All chant together: “A chacun son gout!”

- Bill Reichblum

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